Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of notorious drug trafficker El Chapo, pleaded guilty to three counts on Thursday, including conspiracy to distribute drugs, conspiracy to launder money, and drug trafficking.
The 31-year-old, who was arrested in February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, appeared in federal court in Washington DC wearing a green jail uniform to enter her guilty plea on federal charges related to her husband’s drug cartel.
During the hearing, Ms Coronel Aispuro spoke through an interpreter.
She pleaded guilty to three counts during the hearing, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the United States.
The other two charges were conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, as well as engaging in transactions or dealings with a designated narcotics trafficker.
Judge Rudolph Contreras of the United States District Court in Washington DC presided over the hearing and accepted the woman’s guilty pleas.
Since her arrest, Ms Coronel Aispuro has been in jail after being denied bail. She will remain in jail until the sentencing hearing, which was scheduled for 15 September, 2021.
Ms Coronel Aispuro became a regular fixture at her husband’s federal trial in Brooklyn, New York, in 2019 – appearing almost every day during the two-month event. The couple have been married since 2007 and have twin daughters together.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was known for running the Sinaloa drug cartel for 25 years and was responsible for smuggling cocaine and other drugs into the US, according to federal prosecutors.
He was convicted on 10 counts including engaging in a criminal enterprise, international distribution of cocaine and other drugs, and conspiracy to launder narcotics proceeds. Following the conviction, El Chapo was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years, and is being held in Colorado’s Supermax prison.
The arrest of Ms Coronel Airspuro in February came as a surprise in part because federal authorities made no moves to arrest the woman over the last two years. She was implicated in her husband’s crimes during his 2019 trial, with prosecutors saying she helped orchestrate El Chapo’s two prison breaks in Mexico.
US prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi said the woman “aided and abetted” the multibillion-dollar Sinaloa cartel’s to smuggle drugs into the country from Mexico.
The case also involved Ms Coronel Aispuro being accused of using “controlled commercial and residential properties” owned by her husband, El Chapo. She was also accused of deriving an income from those properties by renting them out.
Mr Nardozzi said that Ms Coronel Aispuro violated the Kingpin Act because she is a United States citizen, which prohibits people from having “financial entanglements” with a sanctioned narcotics trafficker.
“The government would prove each of the three counts in the information by a variety of means. Those would include witness testimony, evidence generated by law enforcement investigation, and other means,” Mr Nardozzi said.
Ms Coronel Aispuro listened as the federal prosecutor laid out the US government’s case against her and how they would prove her illegal involvement if the case went to trial.
When asked by Judge Contreras if she committed the crimes described by prosecutors, Ms Coronel Aispuro responded: “Yes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report