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El Chapo’s wife pleads guilty to helping run her drug empire

Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of the famous Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, pleaded guilty Thursday to helping her husband run his global criminal empire nearly a decade ago, and then, after one of his arrests, to escape from a high security center. Mexican prison.

Appearing in a green suit at a hearing in federal court in Washington, Ms Coronel, 31, admitted that as of 2011, she helped her husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, smuggle at least 450 kilograms of cocaine, 90 kilograms of heroin and almost 90,000 kilograms of marijuana in the United States.

Ms Coronel also admitted to passing messages from Mr Guzmán to a team of conspirators who helped him escape from the Altiplano prison near Toluca, Mexico, in 2015 – a dramatic escape involving a self-propelled wagon and a kilometer and a half. long tunnel that was dug in the shower of his cell.

The court appearance, though brief, sparked interest in the United States and Mexico, where Ms. Coronel, a Mexican-American citizen, remained a subject of fascination, in part fueled by her lavish social media habits. . A permanent presence at Mr. Guzmán’s trial in Brooklyn three years ago, she came and went often in a whirlwind of expensive television cameras, advertising consultants and perfume.

According to her plea deal with federal prosecutors, Ms Coronel, who was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, has been named as a “minimal participant” in the crimes of the former organization. her husband, the Sinaloa drug cartel. Under the deal, she faces 108 to 135 months in jail when sentenced in September, but her lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, said she could serve less time than that.

“She’s happy to be able to start putting all of this behind her and can’t wait to be reunited with her children,” Lichtman said. “We expect a sentence that will not destroy his life.”

Even though prosecutors presented important evidence at Mr Guzmán’s trial that implicated Ms Coronel, his third – or possibly fourth – wife, in international drug trafficking, some involving her own father, she has more or less wandered off. freely over the past two years as a United States. the police investigated her and finally negotiated her surrender.

Mr. Guzmán, who was sentenced in early 2019, is currently serving a life sentence in the so-called Supermax, the safest federal prison in the United States.

Despite the incessant chatter in the media, nothing in Ms Coronel’s nine-page plea deal called for cooperation with US authorities. Although there was intense speculation at the time of her arrest as to whether she would reveal the secrets of the cartel to investigators, it is still unclear who she might be cooperating with. Her husband has been detained in the United States since 2017 and numerous criminal associates she would have theoretically testified against have themselves testified against Mr. Guzmán during his trial.

Law enforcement officials say Mr. Guzmán’s business interests are managed by four of his sons, known collectively as Los Chapitos and born to women other than Ms. Coronel. Each of them faces federal charges in the United States, but remains at large in Mexico.

Zach Montague contributed reports.

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