The wife of jailed Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman pleaded guilty on Thursday to helping her husband smuggle narcotics into the United States.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, a 31-year-old former beauty queen, faces up to life in prison.
Coronel admitted all three counts against her, including drug trafficking and money laundering, during a court appearance in Washington.
She answered “guilty” three times when the judge asked her for her plea. Coronel will be sentenced on September 15.
Drug trafficking carries a life term in jail and she faces a minimum of 15 years. The admissions of guilt may help reduce her sentence, though.
US authorities arrested her in February at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington on suspicion of “aiding and abetting” her husband’s drug smuggling business.
Coronel was accused of conspiracy to traffic vast amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the United States.
Guzman was the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of Mexico’s most notorious drug trafficking groups.
He ran an operation that delivered hundreds of tons of narcotics into the United States and was behind multiple murders of those who crossed him, according to court filings.
The Sinaloa cartel imported more than 495 tons of cocaine, 99 tons of heroin, 49 tons of methamphetamine and 99 tons of marijuana over 25 years, according to the US Justice Department.
Guzman was extradited to the United States in 2017 to stand trial, and was convicted and sentenced to life in prison two years later.
Coronel, according to the Justice Department, took part in cartel activities and allegedly assisted in two plots to help Guzman escape from a Mexican prison, including the successful first one in 2015 when he escaped through a tunnel on a motorcycle.
– Complicity –
She relayed messages on behalf of Guzman to further his drug trafficking while he attempted to avoid capture by the Mexican authorities, prosecutors said.
Coronel continued to deliver messages she received from him during her prison visits, they added.
A dual US-Mexico citizen and the mother of twins by Guzman, Coronel, 32 years younger than her husband, appeared in court nearly every day of his three-month trial in New York.
She had been barred from all contact with him during more than two years of pretrial detention.
But during the trial, each day as he entered and left the courtroom, Guzman touched his heart and blew her a kiss.
During the trial, there were suggestions that she was involved in his business and prison escape, but authorities let her come and go freely.
Guzman is locked up in the highest-security prison in the United States, the ADX federal prison in Florence, Colorado.
Coronel, who is the niece of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, another late boss of the Sinaloa cartel, was born in California but spent most of her life in Mexico.