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The former beauty queen wife of notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been arrested on international drug trafficking charges and accused of helping her husband run his multibillion-dollar drug cartel.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, was arrested Monday at Dulles International Airport in Virginia and is scheduled to make her initial appearance in federal court Tuesday, according to The United States Department of Justice.
Coronel, a native of California who has U.S.-Mexico dual citizenship, has been charged with participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the United States.
She’s also accused of helping to orchestrate her husband’s elaborate escape from a Mexico prison in July 2015, in which he used a nearly mile-long underground tunnel dug beneath his prison cell shower, according to an affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
Coronel married Guzman, the one-time leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel—considered by authorities to be the “most prolific drug cartel in Mexico”—in 2007 when she was just 17 years old.
Authorities say she not only knew of Guzman’s role in the drug cartel, but also helped him run the business, relaying messages from Guzman to other cartel members from 2012 to 2014 to keep the operations running smoothly as he was in hiding from Mexican authorities, according to the affidavit.
After Guzman’s arrest in Mexico in 2014, investigators say she continued to act as “go between and messenger” for Guzman while he was in prison so that he could continue to direct cartel activities.
Authorities say Coronel—along with Guzman’s adult sons Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar and Ovidio Guzman Lopez—also orchestrated Guzman’s escape from Altiplano prison in 2015.
According to a witness now helping federal investigators, Guzman instructed his sons through Coronel to purchase land near the prison as well as firearms and an armored truck to carry out the brazen escape plan, the affidavit states.
The group also smuggled a GPS watch to him in the prison to “pinpoint his exact whereabouts” within the facility as they constructed a long underground tunnel that led to the shower of his prison cell, federal authorities said.
Guzman escaped from the prison on July 11, 2015 and remained on the run until he was arrested again on Jan. 8, 2016 in the Sinaloa region of Mexico.
Authorities said Guzman had planned to escape a second time—allegedly with Coronel’s help once again—but he was transferred from the Altiplano prison to a facility in Ciudad Juarez where he remained until he was extradited to the United States to face trial for drug charges.
Coronel, who shares twin daughters with the cartel leader, was a regular fixture in the New York federal courtroom as her husband stood trial, speaking out in support of her controversial spouse.
“I admire him as the human being that I met,” she told The New York Times, “and the one that I married.”
She often arrived at the courthouse in designer duds, once famously matching her husband in a burgundy velvet smoking jacket in a show of solidarity after one of Guzman’s numerous mistresses, Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, took the stand to testify the day before.
The former beauty queen cashed in on her notoriety and connection to Guzman in 2019 while appearing on the VH1 reality TV Show “Cartel Crew,” according to The New York Post.
Coronel also grew up in the cartel world herself. Authorities said her father, Ines Coronel Barreras and brother Ines Omar Coronel Aispuro were both members of the Sinaloa Cartel. They were each sentenced to more than 10 years in prison in Mexico for drug-related offenses.
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