Emma Coronel Aispuro, a former US beauty queen and wife of the world's most notorious living drug kingpin – Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the former leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel who is currently serving a life sentence - was arrested on Monday in the US over her alleged involvement in international drug trafficking, the US Justice Department reported on Monday.
Coronel, 31, a dual US-Mexican citizen and a regular attendee at her husband’s trial two years ago, was arrested at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia "on charges related to her alleged involvement in international drug trafficking" is expected to appear in a federal court in Washington on Tuesday. It was unclear why Coronel was in the Washington area.
Her arrest came two years after a trial in Brooklyn where Guzman, now 63, was convicted of trafficking tons of drugs into the United States as Sinaloa’s leader. Prosecutors at the trial said Guzman amassed power through murders and wars with rival cartels. He was sentenced in July 2019 to life in prison plus 30 years, which the sentencing judge said reflected Guzman’s “overwhelmingly evil” actions. Guzman was sent to ADX Florence in Colorado, the nation’s most secure "Supermax" prison.
Coronel and Guzman have been married since 2007, when they wed in an ostentatious ceremony in a village in Durango state. At the time, Coronel was an 18-year-old beauty queen.
Coronel was charged on Monday in a one-count complaint with conspiring to distribute one kilogram or more of heroin, five kilograms or more of cocaine, 500 grams of more of meth and a whopping 1,000 kilograms or more of cannabis for unlawful importation into the United States. The DOJ also accused Coronel of conspiring to aid her husband in his July 2015 escape from the Altiplano prison in Mexico, when he dug a mile-long tunnel from his cell.
She was also allegedly among those behind another of Guzman’s escape attempts from the same jail after his recapture by Mexican authorities in January 2016. The plot failed to materialize after prison officials uncovered an entrance to yet another would-be underground tunnel outside of the facility. Then, with his hopes for reaching freedom dashed, the Sinaloa Cartel co-founder asked the authorities to fastrack his extraction to the States, complaining of dire conditions in the Mexican prison.
El Chapo was eventually handed over to the US in January 2017, where he is currently serving a life sentence plus 30 years, after being convicted on 10 charges related to large-scale drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder.
Before her arrest, Coronel capitalized on Guzman’s notoriety, launching a clothing line named after her husband, ‘El Chapo Guzman,’ and became a reality star after she was featured on Season 2 on VH1's 'Cartel Crew’ series.
U.S. and Mexican efforts to fight drug trafficking became strained in October when the DOJ brought drug charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos. However one month later the Justice Department unexpectedly dropped that case the following month and let Cienfuegos return to Mexico, a move Mexico said would restore trust in the countries’ strained security ties. Cienfuegos was exonerated two months later when Mexico dropped its own case.
Tomas Guevara, an investigator in security issues at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, said Coronel’s arrest might be part of a “pressure strategy” to prompt cooperation from Guzman.
According to Reuters, a Mexican official familiar with Coronel’s case, who asked not to be identified, said her arrest appeared to be solely a U.S. initiative, and that Coronel was not wanted in Mexico.