WASHINGTON — The wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman pleaded guilty Thursday to charges in the U.S. and admitted that she helped her husband run his multibillion-dollar criminal empire.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, wearing a green jail uniform, appeared in federal court in Washington and pleaded guilty to three federal offenses as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
The charges include knowingly and willfully conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine for several years. She also pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy charge and to 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 jailed since then.
“She is very happy to put this behind her,” Coronel Aispuro’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said outside the courthouse. “She didn’t expect to get arrested after her husband received life in prison. So, this is obviously a troubling time. But we’re going to get past it.”
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.
As Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Guzman ran a cartel responsible for smuggling cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors say. They also said his “army of sicarios,” or “hit men,” was under orders to kidnap, torture and kill anyone who got in his way.
The prosecutor, Anthony Nardozzi, said his wife had “aided and abetted” the Sinaloa cartel’s objectives to smuggle drugs into the U.S. and helped to import more than 450,000 kilograms of cocaine, 90,000 kilograms of heroin, 45,000 kilograms of methamphetamine and about 90,000 kilograms of marijuana.
Lichtman insisted that Coronel Aisupro was a “very minimal participant” in the drug empire. “She was a very small part of this much larger thing,” he said
Her arrest earlier this year was a surprise in part because authorities had made no move to arrest her over the past two years, even after she was implicated in her husband’s crimes. During Guzman’s trial in 2019, prosecutors said she helped orchestrate Guzman’s two prison breaks in Mexico.
Nardozzi said Coronel Aispuro “served as a go-between” to deliver messages to cartel members after her husband was arrested and also conspired with Guzman’s sons to “plan and coordinate” his prison escapes.
Coronel Aispuro listened quietly as prosecutors described how they could prove her illegal activity if she chose to go to trial.
“Yes,” she said through a translator, when asked by the judge if she had actually committed the crimes the government described.
Licthman said his client did not agree to cooperate with federal investigators but hoped she would receive below a statutory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison when she is due back in court in September for sentencing.
ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — A man fatally shot a woman and a child inside a Florida supermarket Thursday before killing himself, authorities said, causing dozens to flee the store in panic.
The shooting happened shortly after 11:30 a.m. at a Publix located in a strip mall that also houses small shops and restaurants.
Detectives are reviewing security video and talking to witnesses, said Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera. She said investigators believe the shooter and the victims may have known each other. No names have been released.
Juan Guardia told the Palm Beach Post he was in the deli area when the shooting happened in the produce aisle.
“I heard, ‘They’re shooting!’ A woman Publix worker said, ‘Run! Shooting!’” Guardia said. “I was scared. It’s sad because everything happened fast. Everyone was running, some employees were crying.”
Ron Glassman, a stress management consultant, had just parked his car and was heading to another shop when about 50 customers and employees in small clusters came running out of the Publix yelling, “There’s a shooter, there’s a shooter. Don’t go in there.”
“It was pretty chaotic. People were very shaken,” Glassman said.
He said armed sheriff’s deputies wearing helmets and bulletproof vests arrived about five minutes later.
Publix, in a statement, said, “Our thoughts are with those who are impacted by this tragedy.” The company added that it is cooperating with law enforcement but declined further comment. Publix is Florida’s largest grocery chain and has more than 1,200 stores in the Southern United States.
Royal Palm Beach is a middle-class suburb of 40,000 residents, about 15 miles inland from Palm Beach.