The wife of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán has been sentenced to three years in prison for her role in helping his Sinaloa cartel.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 32, pleaded guilty in June to charges ranging from conspiracy to illegal drug distribution. She also admitted to helping Guzmán escape from a Mexican prison.
She could have faced life in prison, but US prosecutors asked for a shorter sentence after she expressed remorse. Her husband, 64, is currently serving a life sentence in Colorado.
According to court documents, Coronel Aispuro, a former beauty queen, conspired with Guzmán and other members of the Sinaloa cartel to traffic cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana into the US, and to launder the proceeds.
Authorities also believe that Coronel Aispuro played a “critical role” in helping Guzmán escape from a maximum-security prison in 2015 by purchasing a property near the site. Guzmán was able to escape through tunnels dug underneath, complete with air ducts, lights and a motorcycle – that came up to the cartel-owned property.
She also provided him with a GPS-enabled watch and relayed messages to operatives while he was inside. His whereabouts following the escape were unknown for months until he surfaced for an interview with the actor Sean Penn. In court on Tuesday in Washington, Judge Rudolph Contreras also ordered that she forfeit nearly $1.5m (£1.13m) and be subject to four years of supervised release when she leaves prison.
Speaking in Spanish through an interpreter, Coronel Aispuro said she had “true regret for any and all harm that I may have done”. Federal prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi had asked for a four year sentence earlier this month, saying that while her conduct “was significant”, her role was minimal and she “quickly accepted responsibility for her criminal conduct”.
Born in the US to Inés Coronel Barreras, a Sinaloa cartel member, Coronel Aispuro met Guzmán when she was 17 and married him the following year. Her father was sentenced to prison in Mexico on weapons charges in 2017. An uncle, Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, was considered one of Mexico’s most wanted men until he was killed in a gun battle with the Mexican Army in 2010.
Her attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said that Coronel Aispuro may be in danger if she were ever to return to Mexico, following media reports that she cooperated with US authorities. “I’m not sure that she could ever go back home,” he said. In his sentencing, Judge Contreras wished her luck for the future, adding that he hopes she raises her two daughters “in a different environment than you’ve experienced today.”
Emma Coronel Aispuro made quite an impression during her husband’s trial in New York, wearing suede jackets, designer dresses and a diamond-encrusted watch. People were shocked and appalled at the way she flaunted her wealth – money that was obtained through drug trafficking.
But she has spent the past nine months in jail, dressed in prison garb and held in solitary confinement. She has expressed remorse for her actions, saying that she feels shame for the role that she played in her husband’s drug cartel.
The judge showed leniency on her in the courtroom, sentencing her to three years, a shorter sentence than legal analysts had expected. The lesson was clear: Coronel broke the law, but she repented, and the judge went easy on her. Perhaps people can change, and sometimes they are given another chance.