The wife of one of the world’s most notorious drug kingpins, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was arrested Monday for allegedly helping her husband run his multi-billion dollar international drug cartel and for aiding in his 2015 escape from a Mexican prison.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, a California-born, dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, was arrested Monday at Washington Dulles International Airport. She faces charges for participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the U.S., according to the Justice Department.
Investigators also believe Coronel conspired with others to assist Guzmán in his July 11, 2015 escape from Altiplano prison in Mexico and tried to organize a second escape from jail a year later.
Coronel’s arrest is the latest development in the Guzmán cartel family saga. El Chapo was the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel for nearly 30 years. Two prison escapes in Mexico helped boost the legend surrounding Guzman and his family.
After Guzmán was re-arrested in Mexico in January 2016 following his first prison escape, he was extradited to the U.S. in 2017. He was convicted of ten criminal counts in federal court in New York in 2019 and is currently serving life in prison.
Guzmán’s sons are also involved in drug smuggling. In October 2019, a massive gunfight between the cartel’s gunmen and Mexican authorities broke out after government officers attempted to arrest one of Guzmán’s son, Ovidio Guzmán López, who is wanted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges.
He was arrested but later released after the cartel’s gunmen took off on a rampage across the city of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state on Mexico’s Pacific coast, killing military troops and bystanders.
Coronel married Guzmán in 2007 when she was a teenager. She and Guzmán have two twin daughters together.
Her father, Ines Coronel Barreras, was a member of the Sinaloa Cartel. He and his son, Ines Omar Coronel Aispuro, were arrested in Mexico in April 2013. Four years later, a Mexican court sentenced the two to more than 10 years in prison for marijuana trafficking and firearms violations.
The FBI alleges that Coronel played an active role in her husband’s business while he was both evading arrest and while he was imprisoned.
According to court documents, from 2012 to 2014 Coronel relayed messages on behalf of Guzmán to support the drug trafficking operations while her husband was in hiding from Mexican authorities. After he was first arrested in 2014, she continued to deliver messages she received from Guzmán when she visited him in prison.
A cooperating witness working with the U.S. government provided details of messages Coronel helped collect from Guzmán.
The unidentified witness told the FBI that Coronel, as well as Guzmán’s four sons, worked together to facilitate his escape from Altiplano through an underground tunnel.
This witness was tasked by the family to purchase a warehouse near Altiplano prison as well as guns and an armored truck ahead of Guzmán’s first escape. This witness says they met with Guzmán’s sons and Coronel to discuss this plan.
After Guzmán was captured again in 2016, this witness says Coronel contacted them again to try to spring El Chapo from prison. The witness was given $1 million, at least $100,000 given to them by Coronel directly, to facilitate the escape. Coronel told the informant to buy property near the prison where Guzmán was being held. But before they could execute their plan, Guzmán was transferred to another prison, court documents say.
Coronel allegedly told the witness that she and Guzmán’s sons were attempting to facilitate her husband’s transfer to another jail and that around $2 million had been paid to the Mexican official in charge of the country’s prisons to make that happen.