MEXICO CITY — The Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo — “Shorty” — is said to have first met the elegant teenage daughter of one of his lieutenants at a small-town dance. Smitten, he later hosted a lavish bash to support her bid to become a beauty contest queen.
She was just 18 — and more than three decades his junior — when they married in 2007 in the town of La Angostura, deep in the Sierra Madre and in the heart of the so-called Golden Triangle of heroin production in Mexico.
Years later, decked out in designer garb and spiked heels, she was a paparazzi-pleasing daily presence as Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman faced his legal reckoning in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn as the leader of the Sinaloa cartel.
On Monday, U.S. authorities arrested Emma Coronel Aispuro at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, alleging that she was more than the loyal and fashion-conscious wife of the world’s most notorious narco.
Mirroring some of the allegations that felled her husband, Coronel — a citizen of both the U.S. and Mexico — faces charges of participating in a broad conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana into the United States.
After Guzman was imprisoned in Mexico, an FBI affidavit states, his wife acted as a “go-between and messenger,” relaying his orders to his lieutenants and his four sons, all of whom are allegedly high-ranking cartel members.
U.S. authorities allege she assisted in his sensational 2015 prison escape, when Guzmán dropped into a hole scooped out beneath the shower in his Mexican cell and hopped onto a rail-mounted motorcycle, which whisked him to freedom through a mile-long tunnel.
Coronel allegedly met with Guzmán’s son to discuss the plan, which had involved purchasing land and a warehouse near the prison, along with firearms and an armored truck, according to an FBI affidavit.
Guzmán was captured six months later in the Pacific Coast city of Los Mochis, Mexico.
The FBI said his wife later helped organize a second escape scheme for which a Guzmán confederate received about $1 million — and told a “cooperating witness” that a senior prison official had been paid $2 million to help. The prison chief was not identified.