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Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman's wife pleads guilty to charges she helped run Mexican drug kingpin's multibillion-dollar crime empire

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

The wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman pleaded guilty to charges, in which she admitted that she helped run the Mexican drug kingpin's multibillion-dollar crime empire. As part of a plea deal, Emma Coronel Aispuro pleaded guilty to three federal offenses in the United States.

In federal court in Washington on Thursday, the 31-year-old wife of El Chapo pleaded guilty to knowingly and willfully conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine for several years. Coronel Aispuro also pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy charge and to engaging in transactions with a foreign narcotics trafficker.

The former beauty queen wore a green prison uniform and white face covering while she accepted the conditions of her plea deal.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras asked Coronel Aispuro, "Are you entering this plea because you are guilty and for no other reason?"

Through a language interpreter, Coronel Aispuro accepted the guilty plea by responding in Spanish, "Si."

USA Today reported, "Prosecutors have alleged Coronel Aispuro 'worked closely with the command-and-control structure' of the Sinaloa cartel and conspired to distribute large quantities of drugs, knowing they would be smuggled into the U.S."

The prosecutor, Anthony Nardozzi, said Colonel Aispuro had "aided and abetted" the Sinaloa Cartel's efforts to import cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Nardozzi said El Chapo's wife "served as a go-between" to deliver messages to cartel members after her husband was arrested.

"The defendant aided and abetted the objectives of the Sinaloa Cartel," Nardozzi, Deputy Chief of Litigation at the Justice Department, told the court. "And it allowed Guzman to resume his leadership role at the Sinaloa Cartel and in doing so, furthered the cartel's drug trafficking business."

During Guzman's trial in 2019, prosecutors claimed she helped orchestrate Guzman's two successful prison breaks in Mexico.

Her attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said Coronel Aisupro was a "very minimal participant" in the cartel's criminal activity. "She was a very small part of this much larger thing," Lichtman said.

"This is an arm's length plea agreement," Lichtman said. "She's happy to take responsibility ... (to) get on with her life. The only thing I can tell you is that she is at peace with her decision."

"She didn't expect to get arrested after her husband received life in prison," he said outside the courthouse. "So, this is obviously a troubling time. But we're going to get past it."

Guzman was extradited to the U.S. in 2017, and sentenced to life in prison plus thirty years in July 2019. The former drug lord is serving his sentence in Colorado's Supermax prison.

During his approximately 20-year reign as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, El Chapo oversaw a massive crime empire, which put him on Forbes' list of billionaires. Prosecutors estimate that Guzman made more than $12.67 billion from illegal operations, which he was ordered to forfeit by U.S. authorities.

Coronel Aispuro, who was born in California and is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico, was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. She has been in jail ever since her arrest.

Coronel Aispuro is believed to be El Chapo's third wife. The couple married in 2007 when she was 18 and he was 39. They have two young twin daughters together.

She will be sentenced on Sept. 15.

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