El Chapo’s wife held without bail; D.C. feds say Emma Coronel helped infamous drug kingpin plot prison break

Molly Crane-Newman, New York Daily News
·3 min read

The wife of drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was held without bail Tuesday as Washington D.C. feds detailed how she played a crucial role in her husband’s notorious escape from a Mexican prison.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, El Chapo’s wife and mother to his 10-year-old daughters, appeared virtually inside a Washington D.C. courtroom where federal prosecutors hit her with a litany of drug charges for her ties to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Coronel, who holds dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship, was arrested in Virginia at Dulles International Airport late Monday and charged with conspiring to smuggle cocaine, meth, heroin, and pot into the U.S.

The charges are the first against Coronel, whose father Inés Coronel Barreras was a high-ranking leader in the cartel. Her uncle, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, was once in business with her infamous drug lord husband.

At her arraignment, which was held via telephone conference, Coronel said little as a Spanish translator communicated the proceedings.

“This defendant worked closely with the command and control structure of the Mexican drug trafficking organization known as the Sinaloa Cartel — most notably, with her husband, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the leader of the cartel, prior to his extradition and subsequent conviction in the United States,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Nardozzi.

On top of conspiring to smuggle and disseminate drugs in the U.S., Nardozzi cited Coronel’s critical involvement in her husband’s escapades.

Asking the judge to detain Coronel as her case plays out, Nardozzi cited her participation in her husband’s July 11, 2015 escape from Altiplano prison and her efforts to help Guzman escape from custody a second time before his January 2017 extradition to Brooklyn.

“Additionally, your honor, the defendant has access to criminal associates who are members of the Sinaloa Cartel as well as financial means to generate a serious risk of flight,” Nardozzi said.

“Further, she has no ties to the Washington D.C. area.”

Coronel’s attorneys, Jeffrey Lichtman and Mariel Colon Miro, also represented her husband at his 2018 trial. They consented to a temporary order or detention.

Before the hearing ended, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather asked Coronel if there was anything she was unclear about.

“No, I understood everything very well. Thank you,” Coronel replied, speaking in Spanish.

Coronel wed El Chapo, who is 32 years her senior, when she was just 18. She sat through more than 200 hours of testimony at his blockbuster drug trafficking trial — the largest of its kind held in an American courtroom — and was implicated by several turncoat witnesses who took the stand against him.

Dámaso López Nuñez described to jurors in hair-raising detail how Coronel played a crucial role in his underground escape from the maximum-security prison in 2015, as she sat meters away in the courtroom gallery.

To carry out the astounding jailbreak, Chapo gave his wife detailed instructions over months each time she visited him in prison — directives Coronel communicated to the drug lord’s adult sons and his lieutenants, López said.

“Emma gave us the message,” he testified in January 2019.

El Chapo would break out via a tunnel connected to his prison cell shower. His sons oversaw the purchase of property outside the prison and hired tunnel architects who were able to use a GPS watch on Guzmán’s wrist to locate his cell and dig the underground passageway to freedom.

Coronel’s brother was the one who piloted the infamous cartel boss 1 1/4 u00bd miles to freedom through the tunnel, López testified.

If convicted, Coronel faces a possible life sentence and up to $10 million in fines.