Washington — The wife of notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán pleaded guilty on Thursday to federal charges that stem from assisting her husband run his multi-billion dollar criminal empire.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, entered her plea during a hearing Thursday at the federal district court in Washington, appearing in person before U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras and wearing a green prison uniform and white mask. Speaking through a Spanish translator, Coronel Aispuro told the court she is pleading guilty to all three criminal charges related to her involvement in her husband's sprawling drug enterprise.
Coronel Aispuro is being held without bond and will be sentenced in September.
Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi told the court that Coronel Aispuro "aided and abetted" the Sinaloa cartel, of which her husband was the leader, from 2011 to 2017 and, after Guzmán's arrest in Mexico, served as the "go-between" for his cartel in furtherance of its drug trafficking. Nardozzi also accused Coronel Aispuro of conspiring with Guzmán's sons to coordinate his 2015 prison break through an elaborate one-mile-long underground tunnel and of benefiting from his criminal activities through their marriage.
Asked by Contreras whether she did "in fact do what the government stated it can prove at trial," Coronel Aispuro responded "yes."
Jeffrey Lichtman, Coronel Aispuro's attorney, told reporters after the proceeding his client was a "very minimal participant" in a larger scheme and is not a cooperator.
"She's at ease with her decision," he said. 'This is obviously a difficult day."
A former beauty queen, Coronel Aispuro was arrested by federal authorities at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington in February. She has dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship and is the mother of twins by Guzmán.
Coronel Aispuro faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the first count, conspiracy to distribute; 20 years for the second count, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments; and 10 years for the third count, engaging in transactions and dealings of a designated foreign drug trafficker. She is also subject to fines of more than $10 million for the three counts.
Guzmán was the longtime leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which was responsible for smuggling mounds of cocaine and other drugs into the U.S., according to the Justice Department. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2017 and stood trial in federal court in New York, during which jurors heard nearly three months of testimony from 56 witnesses and deliberated for six days.
Guzmán was convicted on all 10 counts against him related to his criminal enterprise and drug trafficking and is serving a life sentence at a SuperMax prison in Colorado.