The wife of convicted drug trafficker and former Sinaloa Cartel chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán pleaded guilty in a United States court on Thursday to charges of drug trafficking and financial crimes.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old dual Mexican and U.S. citizen who was born in California, could face life in prison for the trafficking charge alone.
Coronel, who was arrested in February, appeared in a federal court in Washington D.C. on Thursday morning and pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines; conspiring to launder money and collaborating with the Sinaloa Cartel on illegal financial dealings.
A prosecutor said in court there was evidence she controlled properties owned by Guzmán in the United States and collected rent for them, violating the U.S. Kingpin Act, which targets, on a worldwide basis, significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations, and operatives.
As part of a plea agreement, Coronel also confessed to conspiring to aid Guzmán’s escape from the Altiplano maximum-security prison in México state in 2015.
The mother of twin daughters to El Chapo could be sentenced to life imprisonment for the drug distribution charge. The laundering charges carry a maximum 20-year term, while the financial dealings offense is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The former beauty queen could also be ordered to pay fines totaling as much as US $10.7 million.
Coronel, who appeared before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras wearing a green jumpsuit and a white face mask, said she understood the charges against her and the possible consequences of her guilty plea.
“Everything is clear,” she told the judge, who set a tentative sentencing date of September 15.
Guzmán, who married Coronel in 2007, was sentenced to life in prison on trafficking charges in July 2019 after an 11-week trial during which jurors heard from 56 witnesses, including many former associates who offered an unprecedented glimpse into the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel. He is now incarcerated in the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.