Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Mexico’s most notorious drug trafficker, best known as El Chapo, was arrested Monday and charged with helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar criminal empire and plotting to break him out of prison after he was captured in 2014.
Coronel, a former beauty queen, had been under investigation for at least two years by U.S. federal authorities for being an accomplice to her husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who was convicted in 2019 at a trial in New York City of masterminding a huge drug conspiracy and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
Court documents filed in Coronel’s case said she relayed messages for Guzmán that helped him make drug shipments from 2012 to 2014 and evade capture by the legions of U.S. and Mexican authorities who had been pursuing him for years. Evidence emerged at Guzmán’s trial that Coronel was also a chief conspirator in a sophisticated plot to break him out of the Altiplano prison in Mexico by digging a nearly mile-long tunnel into the shower of his cell.
Coronel, 31, is a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen with roots in both Southern California and the city of Culiacán in Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which has long served as the base of operations for Guzmán’s drug organization, the Sinaloa cartel. She was taken into custody at Dulles International Airport, near Washington, and is scheduled to make an initial appearance Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Her lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, who also represented Guzmán, declined to comment on the arrest.
While it is unusual for law enforcement officials to go after the spouses of drug-world figures, prosecutors at Guzmán’s trial offered substantial evidence that Coronel, unlike other wives of narco-traffickers, was deeply enmeshed in her husband’s criminal business.
They introduced BlackBerry messages that made clear that she had helped Guzmán conduct his operations — sometimes with her own father.
Coronel, who is Guzmán’s third — or possibly fourth — wife and the mother of two of his numerous children, grew up in the drug business. Court filings note that her father, Inés Coronel Barreras, who was taken into custody in 2013 in Mexico, was one of Guzmán’s top lieutenants.