A U.S. judge sentenced the wife of imprisoned Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to three years in prison on Tuesday, after she pleaded guilty to helping the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 32, pleaded guilty in June to charges ranging from conspiracy to illegal drug distribution.
She also admitted to helping Guzmán escape from a Mexican prison.
She could have faced life in prison, but US prosecutors asked for a shorter sentence after she expressed remorse.
Her husband, 64, is currently serving a life sentence in Colorado.
According to court documents, Coronel Aispuro, a former beauty queen, conspired with Guzmán and other members of the Sinaloa cartel to traffic cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana into the US, and to launder the proceeds.
The sentence was less than the relatively light four years requested by prosecutors, with the judge acknowledging that Coronel was only a teenager when she married the ruthless drug czar and she readily pleaded guilty after her February 2021 arrest.
“I express my true regrets for any and all harm that I may have done,” she said in Spanish before the sentence was announced.
“I am suffering as a result of the pain that I caused my family.”
She asked the judge to make it possible that she be allowed to raise her twin nine-year-old daughters.
“They are already growing up without the presence of one of their parents,” she said.
“I beg you to please not allow them to grow up without the presence of their mother.
The judge said she would also pay $1.5 million in a restitution deal agreed before the hearing, and that she would be given credit for nine months already spent behind bars since her arrest.
Prosecutors and her defense lawyers alike described Coronel as not involved in the core business of Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel, which shipped hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs into the United States, according to the US Justice Department.
Defense attorneys also pointed out she was a 17-year-old from an impoverished family when she met Guzmán and married him on her 18th birthday. “This began when she was a very impressionable minor married to a powerful man more than three decades older,” Jeffrey Lichtman said.
But the prosecution also noted that Coronel had a key role in helping her husband escape from a Mexican prison in 2015.
Emma Coronel Aispuro helped her husband plan a dramatic escape through a tunnel dug underneath a prison in Mexico in 2015 by smuggling a GPS watch to him disguised as a food item, prosecutors said during a hearing in federal court in Washington. That helped those digging the tunnel pinpoint his location and reach him. The leader of the Sinaloa cartel was recaptured the following year.