Wife of drug kingpin El Chapo detained after court appearance

Emma Coronel Aispuro accused of helping to run her jailed husband’s criminal empire

Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of the notorious cartel boss known as El Chapo. She was arrested and charged with helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar criminal empire. Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of the notorious cartel boss known as El Chapo. She was arrested and charged with helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar criminal empire. Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times

 

A US federal judge has ordered the wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán to remain temporarily jailed after she was arrested and accused of helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar cartel and plotting his escape from a Mexican prison.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen, appeared by video conference for an initial court appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Washington, DC.

The judge’s order came after Ms Coronel’s attorney, Jeffrey Licthman, said he would consent to her temporary detention after her arrest at Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

US magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather explained the charges to Ms Coronel, who spoke to the judge through a Spanish interpreter.

She said prosecutors had provided sufficient reason to keep Ms Coronel behind bars for now and noted that her attorney had consented to the temporary detention.

Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi said the US government believed that Ms Coronel should remain jailed, arguing that she “worked closely with the command-and-control structure” of the Sinaloa cartel, particularly with her husband.

Mr Nardozzi said she conspired to distribute large quantities of drugs, knowing that they would be illegally smuggled into the US.

Mr Nardozzi said Ms Coronel had access to criminal associates, including other members of the cartel, and “financial means to generate a serious risk of flight”.

If convicted, she could face more than 10 years in prison.

Her arrest was the latest twist in the bloody, multinational saga involving Guzmán, the long-time head of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Guzmán, whose two dramatic prison escapes in Mexico fed into a legend that he and his family were all but untouchable, was extradited to the United States in 2017 and is serving life in prison.

And now his wife, with whom he has two young daughters, has been charged with helping him run his criminal empire.

In a single-count criminal complaint, Ms Coronel was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana in the US.

The justice department also accused her of helping her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015 and participating in the planning of a second prison escape before Guzmán was extradited to the US.

As Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Guzmán ran a cartel responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in recent court papers.

They also said his “army of sicarios” or “hit men” was under orders to kidnap, torture and kill anyone who got in his way. – AP