Wife of “El Chapo” Pleads Guilty to Drug and Money Laundering Charges

06/14/2021 (written by rramos) – The U.S. Department of Justice announced on June 10 that Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of jailed Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, pleaded guilty to several criminal charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering. The charges included conspiracy to distribute cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States; conspiracy to launder drug proceeds; and violating the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act by engaging in financial transactions and dealings with property belonging to Guzmán, who remains sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

According to Anthony Nardozzi, the federal prosecutor handling the case, Coronel’s role in the Sinaloa Cartel also included delivering messages from her imprisoned husband to cartel operatives after Guzmán’s 2016 arrest, allowing him to remain involved in the group’s operations from behind bars. Additionally, Nardozzi stated that Coronel had collaborated with El Chapo’s sons to “plan and coordinate” attempts to help Guzmán escape from prison, including his successful 2015 breakout from Altiplano federal prison in Mexico. 

Coronel’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, told the Associated Press that his client did not plead guilty as part of a deal to cooperate with federal investigators, but instead was aiming to receive a shorter prison term when she is sentenced in September. Nevertheless, Mike Vigil, a former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) speculated that Coronel may ultimately decide to work with authorities in exchange for getting her 9-year-old twin daughters (fathered by Guzmán) and herself into some sort of witness-protection program in the United States. 

Source: Dana Verkouteren, Associated Press

U.S. Investigators Targeting Families of Sinaloa Cartel Leaders

Emma Coronel’s guilty plea comes as U.S. authorities continue to target close relatives of the Sinaloa Cartel’s leading figures. Within the family of “El Chapo” Guzmán, U.S. law enforcement agencies have steadily increased their attention on his sons, often referred to collectively as “Los Chapitos.” Two sons from his first wife, Jesús Alfredo and Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, are regarded as particularly important actors within the Sinaloa network. Jesús Alfredo has appeared on DEA’s most wanted list since 2018, while Iván Archivaldo remains sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department under the Kingpin Act for being identified as a “key Sinaloa Cartel operative.” Another two sons, Ovidio and Joaquín Guzmán López, both from El Chapo’s second marriage, were accused by U.S. prosecutors of participating in the cartel’s drug trafficking activities in an indictment unsealed in February 2019. U.S. investigators’ interest in Ovidio was illustrated by the failed operation to arrest him in Culiacán, Sinaloa in October 2019, an operation that reportedly originated from the aforementioned U.S. indictment against him earlier that year. 

Another Sinaloa Cartel kingpin whose family continues to be pursued by U.S. authorities is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, who had been among El Chapo’s closest associates for many years. In April 2021, Ismael Zambada Imperial, known also by the criminal alias “Mayito Gordo,” pled guilty to drug trafficking charges in a federal court in San Diego. Along with Zambada Imperial, three other sons of El Mayo have also been in the crosshairs of U.S. investigators. Vicente “El Vicentillo” Zambada Niebla, who was a key witness in El Chapo’s criminal trial, and Serafin Zambada Ortiz have both been convicted of criminal charges in the United States, while Ismael Zambada Sicairos, known as “Mayito Flaco,” remains at large after being indicted in 2014. The U.S. Treasury Department has also reportedly sanctioned multiple companies established by El Mayo’s wife, Rosario Niebla Cardoza, and several of his daughters that U.S. authorities allege are used for laundering ill-gotten proceeds from cartel operations.  

Internal Disputes Continue to Rage On in Mexico

As the U.S. Government continues to go after the inner circles of the Sinaloa Cartel’s most prominent members, the organization itself remains engulfed in an internal conflict in which El Mayo and Los Chapitos are apparently competing for influence within the group. The dispute is playing out in a series of violent confrontations in some of the Sinaloa Cartel’s traditional strongholds in northwestern Mexico, such as Sonora, Sinaloa, and Durango. Intra-Sinaloa Cartel violence has been particularly acute in the strategically important border state of Baja California. The state’s capital city of Mexicali, which saw a marked increase in homicides throughout the early months of 2021, suffered additional clashes linked to infighting between El Mayo and Los Chapitos as recently as May 2021.

Although some observers have argued that Emma Coronel’s recent guilty plea paves the way for her to provide U.S. authorities with critical information regarding the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel, it is unclear if these insights (even if shared with investigators) will be able to help prevent further divisions within the organization once headed by her husband. 

Sources

“Jesús Alfredo Guzmán: Estados Unidos incluye al hijo de “El Chapo” en la lista de los 10 fugitivos más buscados.” BBC. September 14, 2018.  

Romo, Vanessa. “Sons Of ‘El Chapo’ Indicted On Drug Conspiracy Charge.” National Public Radio. February 21, 2019. 

McGinnis, Teagan. “The Capture and Release of Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán, Sinaloa.” Justice in Mexico. November 5, 2019. 

“Forman 6 mujeres escudo financiero del ‘Mayo’” El Universal. June 24, 2020. 

“Los Chapitos.” InSight Crime. July 2, 2020. 

Gutiérrez González, Rodrigo. “Cuál es el verdadero papel de Ovidio Guzmán en el Cártel de Sinaloa?” La Silla Rota. October 15, 2020. 

Vela, David Saúl. “DEA busca a 9 líderes del narcotráfico en México, Caro Quintero es el número 1 de la lista.” El Financiero. November 23, 2020. 

“Las esposas que tuvo Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán.” El Tiempo. February 2, 2021. 

Castillo García, Gustavo. “Al alza, la disputa en estados del norte por trasiego de fentanilo.” La Jornada. March 14, 2021. 

Domínguez, Francisco. “De enero a marzo, Mexicali registra el mayor número de homicidios en 16 años.” Monitor Económico de Baja California. April 14, 2021. 

“Authorities Arrest ‘El Durango’, High-Ranking Sinaloa Cartel Member in Sonora.” Borderland Beat. April 21, 2021.

“Violento enfrentamiento entre sicarios y policías en la tierra del Mayo enciende las alarmas.” InfoBae. April 22, 2021. 

Davis, Kristina. “Son of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin pleads guilty in San Diego.” San Diego Union-Tribune. April 30, 2021. 

Thornton, Kelly. “Sinaloa Cartel Leader Convicted.” U.S. Department of Justice. April 30, 2021. 

“‘Los Mayos’ atacan Mexicali.” Zeta Tijuana. May 3, 2021. 

Cohn, Scott. “El Chapo’s wife, Emma Coronel, could hold the keys to dismantling the world’s most dangerous drug cartel.” CNBC. June 4, 2021. 

“Sanctions Pursuant To The Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.” U.S. Department of the Treasury. June 8, 2021. 16. 

“Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, pleads guilty to helping run his criminal empire.” Chicago Tribune. June 10, 2021.

“Wife of “El Chapo” Pleads Guilty to Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering.” U.S. Department of Justice. June 10, 2021. 

Balsamo, Michael. “Wife of drug kingpin ‘El Chapo’ pleads guilty to US charges.” Associated Press. June 10, 2021. 

Hsu, Spencer S. “Wife of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán pleads guilty to aiding husband’s drug-trafficking empire.” Washington Post. June 10, 2021. 

Tau, Byron & de Córdoba, José. “El Chapo’s Wife Emma Coronel Pleads Guilty to Helping Run Global Drug Cartel.” Wall Street Journal. June 10, 2021. 

Wife of ‘El Chapo’ Arrested On Drug-Trafficking Charges

Mugshot photo released by the Sheriff’s Office after she was arrested at Dulles International Airport, Virginia. Source: Alexandria’s Sheriff’s Office, Virginia.

03/04/21 (written by scortez) – On February 22, Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of drug kingpin Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, was arrested on drug-trafficking charges at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. According to the New York Times, the charges against Coronel allege her role in assisting her husband run a criminal empire and plotting his escape from prison after he was captured in 2014. Reforma reports that the FBI obtained a postmarked letter Guzmán for Coronel, in which he negotiated the terms of increasing production of heroin. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison. In 2019, Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison without parole for being the chief operating figure of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest and most powerful drug-trafficking organizations in the world. 

The Guardian reports that Coronel, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, was confident that she would not be arrested in the United States. She was a constant presence throughout the duration of Guzmán’s trial in New York City and had gone on record as knowing nothing about Guzmán’s illicit enterprise. Still, the arrest came as a surprise. Prosecutors had not made any indication that they would be pursuing charges, even after she had been directly implicated in Guzmán’s 2019 trial. For two years, Coronel had been under investigation by U.S. attorneys for communicating messages on behalf of Guzmán, while he was in hiding between 2012 and 2014. 

Coronel Played Role in Her Husband’s Operations and 2015 Escape

According to Milenio, Coronel was responsible for communicating instructions, regarding her husband’s 2015 prison escape, to his children and other high-ranking members of the cartel. In their investigation, FBI agents obtained Blackberry text messages from Coronel that illustrate her deep involvement in his operations, at times involving her own father’s assistance. Igna “Nacho” Coronel, Emma’s father and longtime partner of Guzmán, is believed to have introduced the couple. Her father  was later arrested in 2013 for his involvement in drug-trafficking for the cartel. After Guzmán was arrested in Mazatlán, Sinaloa in 2014, Emma continued to assist her husband with running the cartel from prison until his 2015 escape. 

The U.S. Department of Justice asserts that in 2015, Emma Coronel aided Guzmán’s second escape from the Altiplano prison in the city of Almoloya. She worked with four of his sons to plan his underground escape, which included purchasing weapons and armored vehicles. The carefully planned escape involved a mile-long tunnel with tracks to allow him to escape on a makeshift motorbike on train-style tracks. The investigation also alleges that she planned to facilitate his escape after he was apprehended in 2016. Coronel contacted an individual, who is now a witness in the case, to purchase land around the prison to mirror his 2015 escape. The plan did not come to fruition because Guzmán was transferred to a prison in Ciudad Juárez and  later extradited to the United States. Coronel had told a witness that they had paid $2 million dollars to an official in Mexico City in an attempt to get Guzmán  back to the Altiplano prison, where he could escape more easily. It was previously believed that the bribe revealed a web of corruption that could have resulted in another planned escape. 

Coronel is the latest family member of Guzmán to face charges for their role in facilitating his operations. U.S. authorities have labeled Coronel a “flight risk.” She is currently being held without bail, pending trial. Details of her involvement in the Sinaloa Cartel will continue to surface as the legal process runs its course. The arrest of Coronel also signals that the United States under the Biden Administration is going to pursue the geopolitical strategy of assisting Mexico in its fight against narcotrafficking.

Sources

Briseño, José. “Hunden a Emma Coronel una carta y kilos de heroína.” Reforma. February 22, 2021. 

Feuer, Alan. “U.S. Arrests El Chapo’s Wife, Charging Her With Helping to Run Drug Empire.” New York Times. February 22, 2021. 

Zárate, Alejandra. “Emma Coronel dio soborno para que ‘El Chapo’ fuera llevado al Altiplano tras recaptura en 2016.” Milenio. February 22, 2021. 

Balsamo, Michael. “Judge says wife of drug kingpin ‘El Chapo’ must stay in jail.” Associated Press. February 23, 2021. 

Diaz, Jaclyn. ”Wife Of ‘El Chapo’ Arrested In U.S. On Drug Charges.” NPR. February 23,2021. 

“El Chapo’s wife helped him run drug empire from jail, US court hears.” The Guardian. February 23, 2021. 

Mosso, Rubén. “Cuelga el FBI a Emma Coronel ‘narco’, soborno, conspiración…” Milenio. February 23, 2021. 

Vázquez, Juan. “En EU, dan prisión preventiva a Emma Coronel por narcotráfico.” Milenio. February 23, 2021. 

February 2018: News Brief

 

03/08/18 (written by Genesis Lopez)

Discover the important headlines in Mexico from February 2018.

13 Police Officers Arrested in Veracruz

 

Picture by Victor Camacho. La Jornada

Picture by Victor Camacho. La Jornada.

On the morning of February 8, 2018 in Xalapa, Veracruz, 13 police officers were taken into custody due to allegations of involvement in over 54 forced disappearances. These forced disappearances were instances of imprisonment by the government that predominantly occurred during the tenure of former Veracruz governor, Javier Duarte (La Jornada). Duarte is currently detained and accused of being involved in organized crime, embezzlement and corruption. Previous to his arrest on April 16, 2017, he was hiding in Guatemala for almost six months (BBC).

Moreover, there are reports of an elite police force in Veracruz, headed by former director of Veracruz State Police, Roberto González Meza, that illegally detained civilians suspected of being involved with “Los Zetas”(Proceso). Among the 13 police officers arrested was former Veracruz Public Security Secretariat (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP), Nava Holguín and Arturo Bermúdez Zurita. It has been reported that during Duarte’s six-year term there were up to 200 cases of forced disappearances in Veracruz (La Jornada).

 

Sources:

Fugitive Mexican governor Javier Duarte arrested in Guatemala.” BBC News. April 16, 2017.

Gómez, Eirinet, “Detienen a 13 policías de Veracruz vinculados con Javier Duarte.” La Jornada. February 8, 2018.

López, Lourdes, “Implican a exfuncionarios de Veracruz en delitos desaparición forzada.” Excelsior. February 8, 2018.

Pérez, Edgar, “Investigan a ex mando de seguridad de Javier Duarte por desaparición forzada de 15 personas.” El Universal. February 8, 2018.

Zavaleta, Noé, “Policia élite de Javier Duarte: perseguía a Zetas, levantaba a civiles.” Proceso. February 10, 2018.

 

Current Leader of Cartél de Tláhuac is arrested

 

Picture by Cua Rtoscuro. El Universal.

Picture by Cua Rtoscuro. El Universal.

On February 16, 2018, José Eduardo Zamora “El Cholo” was arrested for being linked to the Tláhuac Cartel in the municipality of San José de Iturbide in the state of Guanajuato (Milenio). Zamora was captured in a joint operation between the Investigative Police (Policía de Investigación, PDI) and local police department (Excelsior). He is the alleged successor of Felipe de Jesús Pérez Luna “El Ojos”, the previous leader of the Tláhuac Cartel, who died in November of 2017.

Zamora was detained in 2013 and 2016, respectively for street-level drug dealing and destruction of property. In both cases, he was released on a judge’s order. Authorities say that Zamora held a significant role in the  distribution of drugs in the southeast region of Mexico’s capital. In addition, Zamora is allegedly linked to the homicide of an ex-commander of the Mexico City municipal police in Iztapalapa in February of 2016. As of August 2016, 74 people involved with the Tláhuac Cartel have been arrested (El Universal).

 

Sources:

Detienen en Guanajuato a operador de cártel de Tláhuac.” Milenio, February 16, 2018.

Roa, Wendy, “Fue capturado ‘El Cholo’, jefe de sicarios del Cártel de Tláhuac.” Excelsior. February 16, 2018.

Suárez, Gerardo, “Aprehenden a ‘El Cholo’ ligado a Cártel de Tlahuac.” El Universal. February 17, 2018.

 

 

Anonymous Jury is ordered for “El Chapo’s” Trial

 

Photo by U.S Law Enforcement. New York Times .

Photo by U.S Law Enforcement. New York Times.

New York federal judge Brian M. Cogan has ordered that the jury taking part in Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán’s upcoming trial in September will be anonymous and partly sequestered, citing potential danger to the jurors. Guzmán is facing 17 charges, which include leading a criminal enterprise, producing and exporting wholesale amounts of narcotics across the U.S.-Mexico border, and ordering the targeted assassinations of people associated with  rival organized crime groups (LA Times).

Cogan cited Guzman’s history of violence as the main reason concealing the identities of the jurors. In addition, the selected jury will be under the protection of federal marshals throughout the duration of the trial, which is anticipated to last three to four months (NY Times). Guzmán’s lawyer, A. Eduardo Balarezo, countered that the judge’s order would give the jurors an unfairly perceive Guzman as a threat. Balarezo believes that keeping the jury anonymous will undermine the presumption of innocence, causing them to form a prejudiced opinion before listening to any evidence. “El Chapo” has a history of interference with the judicial processes in Mexico, prompting strict legal procedures following his extradition to the  United States (NY Times).

 

Sources:

Agrawal, Nina, “Citing potential danger, judge orders anonymous jury in ‘El Chapo’ trial.” Los Angeles Times. February 6, 2018.

Feuer, Alan, “El Chapo Jurors Will Be Anonymous During Trial.” The New York Times. February 6, 2018.