RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Emma Coronel, the wife of Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, pleaded guilty on Thursday, June 10, to three drug trafficking-related crimes in a Washington DC district court following a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.
Ms. Coronel, whose case was unsealed last night by court order, is charged with two counts of conspiracy, one to distribute narcotics in the U.S. and another to launder money, and a third count of dealing in the property of a major foreign drug trafficker.
The 31-year-old wife of the former Sinaloa Cartel leader, who holds dual Mexican and U.S. citizenship, responded tersely to Judge Rudolph Contreras, who accepted her plea, in a hearing broadcast by telephone in which she also said she had collaborated in her husband’s activities and escape from prison in Mexico in 2015.
The magistrate set a hearing for Sept. 15 to determine the sentence for Coronel, who could face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison, as well as a US$10 million fine, he said.
Coronel, who has two daughters with the drug trafficker, who was convicted two years ago in the US, was arrested at Dulles International Airport in Virginia last February on suspicion of helping her husband import drugs into the country, and has remained in jail without bail since then, something she will continue to do until her sentencing date.
During the hearing, which was open to the press and public, Coronel mainly limited herself to answering yes or no to the judge’s questions, implying that she was competent and knew the consequences of her guilty plea.
After an hour of exchanges, she was finally heard to say “guilty” in Spanish three times, once for each offense, and to express a sob.
Earlier, Judge Contreras reminded her that the charges are not the result of a grand jury indictment and that she was therefore pleading guilty to what is considered “information,” which would deprive her of the right to a trial and “probably” to appeal the sentence, to which she replied in agreement.
Prosecutor Anthony Nardozzi stated that the US government would be able to prove each of the charges thanks to witnesses and police data, spelling out that the former beauty queen helped Chapo, whom she married in 2007, to “facilitate the importation” of drugs into the US and escape from the Altiplano prison in 2015.
She also explained that throughout their marriage, she “controlled” her husband’s commercial and residential properties and the income derived from their rentals, involving a series of financial transactions in violation of US laws since he was designated a drug trafficker in 2001.
Judge Contreras asked Coronel to listen to those allegations to determine if there were errors. She confirmed that they were “true and correct” and that she had participated in all the activities the prosecutors outlined.