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El Chapos wife arrested on drug trafficking charge; detained at Washington-area airport

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The wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Emma Coronel Aispuro, arrives at the US Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on January 14, 2019 in New York.

The wife of convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera was arrested at a suburban Washington, D.C. airport Monday, for her alleged role in the distribution of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen who had been a fixture at her husband’s 2019 trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., is expected to make her first court appearance Tuesday in Washington.

Guzmán, a leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa narcotics cartel, was sentenced to life in prison following his trial.

More:Notorious drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán sentenced to life. And U.S. wants his $12.6B fortune.

Coronel Aispuro is charged in a conspiracy to distribute drugs in the U.S. and is alleged to have assisted in her husband’s elaborate 2015 escape from a Mexican prison. She also is suspected of plotting another escape before Guzman’s 2017 extradition to the U.S.

Jeffrey Lichtman, a prominent New York City defense lawyer who was one of Guzman’s lawyers during trial, confirmed Monday that he is representing the convicted druglord’s wife. He declined to comment further.

FILE - In this June 10, 1993 file photo, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is shown to the press after his arrest at the high security prison of Almoloya de Juarez, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Mexico’s most powerful kingpin has won a two-year bloody battle for control of drug routes through the border city of Ciudad Juarez, U.S. intelligence has concluded, the latest indication that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel is coming out on top in the country’s drug war.

“Coronel grew up with knowledge of the narcotics trafficking industry, and married Guzman when she was a teenager,” federal authorities said in court documents. “Coronel understood the scope of the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug trafficking; Coronel knows and understands the Sinaloa Cartel is the most prolific cartel in Mexico.”

According to the documents, she also was “aware of multi-ton cocaine shipments, multi-kilo heroin production, multi-ton marijuana shipments, and ton quantity methamphetamine shipments.”

“Coronel understood the drug proceeds she controlled during her marriage to Guzman were derived from these shipments,” federal authorities said.

Citing statements from a cooperating witness, federal authorities said Coronel Aispuro participated in the plan to construct an underground tunnel linked to the Altiplano, Mexico prison that aided in her husband’s 2015 dramatic escape.

Coronel Aispuro was implicated in her husband’s criminal affairs during his trial in a 2018-2019 trial in a Brooklyn federal court.

Damaso Lopez Nuñez, a former Guzmán lieutenant who testified as a government witness in January 2019, told jurors his boss was determined to escape from Mexico’s maximum-security Altiplano prison, where he was locked up after a squad of Mexican Marines captured him in February 2014.

In the brazen July 2015 breakout that captured international headlines, Guzmán slipped into a roughly mile-long tunnel that had been secretly excavated beneath the prison. He made his getaway on a motorcycle attached to rails inside the ventilated and lighted passageway.

Testifying through a Spanish translator, Lopez said Coronel Aispuro began relaying the boss’ instructions during a secret meeting that took place around April 2014 in Culiacán, Mexico.

Guzmán was “taking the risk … and thinking of escaping from prison,” Lopez said Guzmán’s wife told him, the boss’ sons and others during the meeting.

Recounting a follow-up session a month or so later, Lopez testified that Coronel Aispuro relayed additional instructions from her husband to the plotters: “A tunnel had to be built and they should start to work.” 

Watching and listening from a courtroom bench at the time, Coronel Aispuro showed no evident emotion during the testimony as she fidgeted with her nearly waist-length dark hair.

She later declined to comment afterward about Lopez’s testimony. Similarly, Brooklyn federal prosecutors at the time declined to discuss why Coronel Aispuro had not been charged in her husband’s criminal indictment.

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