The wife of ‘El Chapo,’ Emma Coronel Aispuro, pleaded guilty to helping run his multi-billion dollar drug empire

Emma coronel aispuro
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, wife of the notorious drug lord El Chapo, leaves Brooklyn Federal Court surrounded by body guards after her husband was sentenced to life plus 30 years in New York on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Jesse Ward/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • The wife of the infamous drug lord “El Chapo” pleaded guilty to three federal charges on Thursday.
  • Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, admitted to helping run her husband’s multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise.
  • Coronel could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The wife of the infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal drug trafficking charges and helping her husband run the sprawling Sinaloa cartel.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, the 31-year-old former beauty queen, struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors and admitted to three counts: Conspiring to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana into the US; conspiring to launder monetary instruments; and engaging in transactions with a foreign narcotics trafficker.

Federal prosecutors also accused her of conspiring to help her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015, and planning yet another prison break for him in 2017.

Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi described the allegations against Coronel during Thursday’s hearing, arguing that she was more than just a spouse to Guzmán – she actively participated in drug trafficking and the operation of the criminal enterprise, he said.

Nardozzi also Coronel violated America’s Kingpin Act due to her financial involvements with a known drug trafficker. Nardozzi said Coronel ran Guzmán’s commercial and residential properties, and earned income by renting them out.

Coronel was arrested February 22 upon arriving at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. She’s been held in a Virginia jail without bond since then, and will remain there until her sentencing.

Coronel could face a maximum sentence of life in prison

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Emma Coronel Aispuro in 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Guzmán was convicted in 2019 for his role in the Sinaloa cartel, and is serving a life sentence at a Colorado “supermax” facility. He and Coronel have been married since 2007, when she was just 18 years old.

Coronel appeared in a federal court in Washington, DC and answered Judge Rudolph Contreras’ questions using the assistance of a Spanish interpreter.

She responded with a quiet “Sí” to most of Contreras’ questions on whether she understood the proceedings, and that she was waiving her right to a trial. She also told the court she was a dual Mexican and American citizen, had no mental illnesses or addictions to narcotics or alcohol, and had received a university-level education.

It’s unclear how severe Coronel’s sentence could be. Contreras told Coronel she could face a maximum of life in prison and a minimum of 10 years on the drug conspiracy charge alone – though he added he has discretion to impose a harsher or lighter sentence as he sees fit.

Contreras told the court he won’t make a sentencing decision until federal probation officials conduct a pre-sentencing investigation and prepare a report.

It’s also unclear whether Coronel will cooperate with federal authorities to build cases against other cartel members. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Coronel’s plea deal did not require such cooperation, but Vice News reported that she could still be helping authorities without testifying in court.

Coronel is expected to be sentenced on September 15.