WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal judge has ordered the wife of Mexican drug leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to remain temporarily in jail after being arrested and charged with helping her husband run his cartel of several billion dollars and plotting his daring escape from a Mexican prison in 2015.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, appeared by video conference for a first appearance before a federal magistrate in Washington, DC The judge’s order came after Coronel’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said he would consent in pre-trial detention after his arrest at Dulles International Airport in Virginia.
US judge Robin Meriweather explained the charges to Coronel, who spoke to the judge through a Spanish interpreter. She said prosecutors had provided sufficient reasons to keep Coronel behind bars for now and noted that her lawyer had consented to pre-trial detention.
Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi said the US government believed Coronel should remain in jail, arguing that she “worked closely with the command and control structure” of the Sinaloa cartel, particularly with her husband. Nardozzi said she conspired to distribute large amounts of drugs, knowing they would be smuggled into the United States illegally.
Nardozzi said Coronel had access to criminal associates, including other cartel members, and “the financial means to generate a serious risk of flight.” If found guilty, she faces more than 10 years in prison.
His arrest was the latest twist in the bloody multinational saga involving Guzman, the longtime leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel. Guzman, whose two dramatic Mexican prison escapes fueled the legend that he and his family were almost untouchable, was extradited to the United States in 2017 and is serving a life sentence.
And now his wife, with whom he has two young daughters, has been accused of helping him run his criminal empire. In a single count criminal complaint, Coronel was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the U.S. The Department of Justice also charged her for helping her husband escape a Mexican prison in 2015 and helping to plan a second prison escape before Guzman was extradited to the United States
As Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Guzman led a cartel responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors have said in recent court documents. They also said his “army of sicarios” or “contract killers” had been ordered to kidnap, torture and kill anyone who stood in their way.
His prison escapes became legendary and raised serious questions about whether the Mexican justice system was capable of holding him accountable. In one case, he escaped through a shower entry into his cell into a one kilometer long (1.6 kilometer long) lighted tunnel with a motorcycle on rails. Planning for the escape took a long time, prosecutors said, with his wife playing a key role.
Court documents accuse Coronel of working with Guzman’s sons and a witness, who is now cooperating with the US government, to organize the construction of the underground tunnel that Guzman used to escape the Altiplano prison in order to ‘prevent his extradition to the United States. a piece of land near the prison, guns and an armored truck and smuggling a GPS watch to him so they could “pinpoint exactly where he is in order to build the tunnel with an accessible entry point for him ”, indicate the court documents.
Guzman was sentenced to life behind bars in 2019.
Coronel, who was a beauty queen as a teenager, regularly attended Guzman’s trial, even when testimonies implicated her in his prison escapes. The two, separated by the age of over 30, have been together for at least 2007 and their twin daughters were born in 2011.
His father, Ines Coronel Barreras, was arrested in 2013 along with one of his sons and several other men in a warehouse with hundreds of pounds of marijuana across the border from Douglas, Arizona. Months earlier, the US Treasury announced financial sanctions against his father for his alleged drug trafficking.
After Guzman was arrested again after her escape, Coronel lobbied the Mexican government to improve her husband’s conditions of detention. And after being convicted in 2019, she decided to launch a clothing line in his name.
Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Coronel “has been involved in drug trafficking since she was little. She knows the workings of the Sinaloa cartel.
He said she might be willing to cooperate.
“She has a huge motivation, and these are her twins,” Vigil said.
Associated Press writers Christopher Sherman and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.
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