(AP) — The wife of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman pleaded guilty to charges in the United States
on Thursday, admitting to assisting her husband in running his multibillion-dollar criminal empire.
Emma Coronel Aispuro
appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C.
, wearing a green
jail uniform, and pleaded guilty to three federal offenses as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors
The charges include knowingly and willfully conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana
, and methamphetamine for several years, as well as engaging in transactions with a foreign narcotics trafficker.
The 31-year-old was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia
and has been incarcerated since.
“She is very happy to put this behind her,” Coronel Aispuro’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said outside the courthouse. “She didn’t expect to be arrested after her husband was sentenced to life in prison
, so this is obviously a troubling time, but we’ll get through it.”
Prosecutors claim Coronel Aispuro "worked closely with the command-and-control structure" of the Sinaloa cartel, conspiring to distribute large quantities of drugs knowing they would be smuggled into the United States.
During his 25-year reign as Mexico
's most powerful drug lord, Guzman allegedly led a cartel responsible for smuggling cocaine and other drugs into the United States, and his "army of sicarios," or "hit men," were ordered to kidnap, torture, and kill anyone who got in his way.
According to the prosecutor, Anthony Nardozzi, his wife "aided and abetted" the Sinaloa cartel's goals of smuggling drugs into the United States, assisting in the importation of more than 450,000 kilograms of cocaine, 90,000 kilograms of heroin, 45,000 kilograms of methamphetamine, and approximately 90,000 kilograms of marijuana.
Coronel Aispuro, according to Lichtman, was a "very minor participant" in the drug empire. "She was a very minor part of this much larger thing," he said.
Her arrest earlier this year came as a surprise, in part because authorities had made no move to arrest her in the previous two years, despite being implicated in her husband's crimes. During Guzman's trial
in 2019, prosecutors claimed she helped orchestrate Guzman's two prison breaks in Mexico.
Coronel Aispuro "served as a go-between" to deliver messages to cartel members after her husband was arrested, according to Nardozzi, and she also conspired with Guzman's sons to "plan and coordinate" his prison escapes.
Coronel Aispuro sat silently as prosecutors explained how they would prove her illegal activity if she chose to go to trial.
When the judge
asked if she had committed the crimes described by the government, she replied, "Yes," through a translator.
Litchman stated that his client refused to cooperate with federal investigators but hoped to receive a sentence less than the statutory minimum of ten years in prison when she is sentenced in September.