The wife of Joaquin ‘El Chapo‘ Guzman has been arrested at Washington DC‘s Dulles Airport and charged with drug trafficking, with an informant accusing her of masterminding a $3 million plan to break him out of Mexico’s jails.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen with both U.S. and Mexican citizenship, was detained on Monday in the first major cartel detention of Joe Biden’s administration.
She will appear in court on Tuesday before Judge Harvey G. Michael, charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the U.S.
The trafficking charges run from 2014 until her husband’s extradition to the United States in January 2017.
While she is undoubtedly a high profile arrest for the authorities, she is far from being a major player in her own right. Many suspect that prosecutors will lean heavily on her to ‘flip’ – something which, for someone so embedded in trafficking culture, may not come easy.
She is also accused of helping Guzman, now 63, in his infamous July 11, 2015 escape through a tunnel dug beneath Altiplano prison, in Almoloya de Juarez, Mexico.
The U.S. government’s case is helped by an informant, named only as ‘Cooperating Witness 1,’ who testified that they were given $100,000 by Coronel to help his escape from prison when he was recaptured in 2016, and $1 million in total.
Emma Coronel, the 31-year-old wife of ‘Chapo’ Guzman, was arrested on Monday
Coronel is seen leaving court in Brooklyn on July 17, 2019, after her husband was sentenced
The informant also claims that Coronel oversaw a plan by which a further $2 million was sent to bribe Mexico’s head of prisons to send Guzman from a prison in Ciudad Juarez back to Altiplano, where he would once again be busted out of jail.
According to the indictment, Coronel ‘stated to Cooperating Witness 1 that approximately $2 million had been paid to the Mexican official who oversaw the Mexican prisons to facilitate the transfer.’
Mike Vigil, a former DEA agent who worked undercover in Mexico, told DailyMail.com that Coronel was ‘a narco princess’ deeply enmeshed in the world of trafficking.
After Guzman was re-arrested in Mexico in January 2016, Coronel is alleged to have engaged in planning the additional jail break, before he was eventually extradited to the U.S. in January 2017.
‘She was not a distributor, or a money launderer, or involved in logistics,’ said Vigil. ‘But she did things he ordered he to, like passing messages.’
Vigil pointed out that all her alleged involvement took place prior to his extradition to the United States – authorities in the U.S. were well aware of her role, and so have prevented her continued help of him while behind bars.
She is not believed to have been allowed to see him inside the Colorado prison.
Vigil said that her current focus was on their daughters, and spending his money, noting: ‘She’s not involved any more.’
He added: ‘So did she participate? Yes.
‘But these charges are related to things that she did in the past. It’s not like she’s branching out on her own.’
Coronel is charged in a one count criminal complaint with a conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin; five kilograms or more of cocaine; 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana; and 500 grams or more of methamphetamines for unlawful importation into the U.S.
Guzman’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, told DailyMail.com he is representing Coronel.
Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman (center) came up through the ranks of the defunct Guadalajara Cartel before going on his own and co-founding the Sinaloa Cartel
Guzman and his wife are pictured in a courtroom sketch from January 31, 2019
For Coronel, born in California, trafficking was a family affair.
Her father Ines Coronel Barreras was a mid-ranking lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel, as was her brother, Omar.
FBI intercepts of Guzman’s phone showed him discussing business in 2011 with Ines – the father-in-law groveling to the man he repeatedly refers to as ‘senor’.
‘Make sure you delete everything every time we’re done chatting,’ Guzman reminds his wife, when she takes the phone back.
Ines and Omar were both arrested in April 2013.
Coronel married Guzman in 2007 in La Angostura, Durango, and gave birth to their twin girls on August 15, 2011.
The girls, Emali and Maria Joaquina, were born at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, California – on their birth certificates, the father’s name was left blank.
Coronel is pictured with Emali and Maria Joaquina, born in 2011, in February 2018 in New York
Coronel was a teenage beauty queen when she met Guzman, who was her father’s boss
Her Instagram post reads: ‘To know who you are, you have to know where you come from and, after, where you are going’
The wiretaps showed how intricately Coronel was involved in her husband’s business, with the pair discussing by text the price per kilo of drugs and liaising about impending police raids on their properties.
‘Our Kiki is fearless,’ Coronel writes, in January 2012, with reference to Maria Joaquina.
‘I’m going to give her an AK-47 so she can hang with me.’
On January 24, 2012, he tells her: ‘Love, whenever you guys see suspicious-looking cars let me know right away so I can get them checked out, love.’
She says that the security team saw some strange vehicles, but ‘they were told they were from the government’.
He replies: ‘I am told that they are following you, darling. You just go ahead and lead a normal life, that’s it. They just want to see if you are coming to where I am.’
A week or so later, she says that she’s been told her home will soon be raided.
‘Let me check and see what’s going on,’ he replied. ‘Do you have a gun?’
She replies that she has one he gave her.
Shortly after, he responds: ‘They are doing a thorough check for me.’
She remarks: ‘I hope it won’t be today. I have a headache.’
Coronel is pictured with members of her father’s legal team on January 17, 2019, in Brooklyn
During his trial, Coronel was a constant presence – the drug lord waving goofily at her across the courtroom, and blowing kisses.
She sat through hours of testimony from his former mistresses, and from former associates who turned against him.
Coronel herself treated the trial as a fashion parade, turning up every day in a striking new outfit. She announced afterwards that she was launching a fashion collection.
In November 2019 Coronel was in talks to join the VH1 reality series Cartel Crew.
TMZ obtained photos of her on a yacht, as another cast member – Michael Corleone Blanco, son of Colombian drug dealer Griselda Blanco – pulled up alongside her boat.
The series ended in December 2019, however, and it does not appear that she filmed any scenes beyond the yacht one.
The promo shows Blanco speeding up to a yacht where Coronel is waiting
Coronel is accused in the court documents of having been in contact with Guzman’s sons, known as ‘Chapitos’, who are currently believed to be running the Sinaloa Cartel.
Four of Guzman’s 15 known sons – Ivan, Jesus, Ovidio and Joaquin Jr – are all referenced in the charging documents.
Ovidio was captured in October 2019 in Culiacan, a stronghold of the Sinaloa Cartel. He was then released amid a full-scale shootout with cartel members in broad daylight that left cars burning and civilians running for cover, in a case which sparked huge controversy for Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Vigil, the former chief of international operations for the DEA, who spent 20 years infiltrating Mexican and Colombian cartels, told DailyMail.com that investigators would now be trying to use Coronel to entrap other, bigger, fish.
Coronel, said Vigil, will be pressed as to the whereabouts of the sons and of Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, the 73-year-old who was Guzman’s right-hand-man.
‘They have cooperating witnesses who claim that she was liaising with the sons,’ he said.
‘And they know that she is very devoted to her daughters, so she won’t want to be separated from them.
‘They’ll be really pressuring her to flip.’
Others were intrigued by the timing of Coronel’s arrest, relating to activity that, according to the charge sheet, stopped in 2017.
Several pointed out that her high-profile detention came only months after the debacle of the arrest of Mexico’s former defense minister, General Salvador Cienfuegos.
Cienfuegos, who served under former president Enrique Pena Nieto, was accused by the U.S. authorities of taking bribes in exchange for protecting drug cartel leaders.
He was arrested at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles in October.
However, a month later the Justice Department agreed to hand him back to Mexico, in a move that stunned many within the State Department and internationally.
Mexico promised to try him in Mexico, with Marcelo Ebrard, the foreign minister, saying ‘it would be very costly’ for Mexico to ‘do nothing’ after having asked for the charges against the former defense chief to be dropped and for him to be returned home.
‘It would be almost suicidal,’ Ebrard said.
Yet in January Mexico declared that Cienfuegos had been exonerated and would face no further charges.
Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico’s ambassador to the US from 2007-13, tweeted that Coronel’s arrest was ‘likely related to a tightening of screws in the aftermath of the Cienfuegos debacle.’