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El Chapo's wife arrested on drug trafficking charge; detained without bail after court hearing

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 24/02/2021 04:14:18 Kevin Johnson and Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY
Svetlana Loboda posing for a photo: February Arrest photo of Emma Coronel Aispuro © Alexandria Sheriff's Office, VirginiaFebruary Arrest photo of Emma Coronel Aispuro

This news story has been updated with information from a court hearing on Feb. 23, 2021.

The wife of convicted Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera was arrested at a suburban Washington, D.C. airport Monday, for her alleged role in the distribution of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana.

A judge on Tuesday ordered the family's latest defendant, Emma Coronel Aispuro, to remain in custody as her attorneys consider a bail application. But prosecutors told the judge she poses a substantial flight risk and should not be released before trial.

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Coronel, 31, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen who had been a fixture at her husband's 2018-2019 federal trial in Brooklyn, N.Y., monitored the hearing from a detention center via a Spanish translation.

Guzmán, a leader of Mexico's Sinaloa narcotics cartel, was sentenced to life in prison following his trial.

More: Notorious drug lord Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán sentenced to life. And U.S. wants his $12.6B fortune.

Coronel is charged in a conspiracy to distribute drugs in the U.S. and is alleged to have assisted in her husband's elaborate 2015 escape from a Mexican prison. She is suspected of plotting another prison escape, which would have been Guzman's third, before his 2017 extradition to the U.S. for trial.

Jeffrey Lichtman, a prominent New York City defense lawyer who was one of Guzman's lawyers during his trial, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather during Tuesday's hearing he represented Coronel and consented to her detention. He said he would consult with prosecutors before proposing a bail package.

However, Anthony Nardozzi, a representative of the U.S. Department of Justice's Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section, told Meriwether that Coronel had ties to Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel, access to substantial funds and no direct ties to the Washington, D.C., area.

She poses a "serious risk of flight," he said. "Pretrial detention is justified."

Court records filed Monday made the same argument.

"Coronel grew up with knowledge of the narcotics trafficking industry, and married Guzman when she was a teenager," federal authorities said in court documents. "Coronel understood the scope of the Sinaloa Cartel's drug trafficking; Coronel knows and understands the Sinaloa Cartel is the most prolific cartel in Mexico."

According to the documents, she also was "aware of multi-ton cocaine shipments, multi-kilo heroin production, multi-ton marijuana shipments, and ton quantity methamphetamine shipments."

"Coronel understood the drug proceeds she controlled during her marriage to Guzman were derived from these shipments," federal authorities said.

Citing statements from a cooperating witness, federal authorities said Coronel participated in the plan to construct an underground tunnel linked to the Mexican prison that aided in her husband's most dramatic escape.

She was implicated directly in her husband's criminal affairs during his 2018-2019 trial in a Brooklyn federal court.

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Damaso Lopez Nuñez, a former Guzmán lieutenant who testified as a government witness in January 2019, told jurors his boss was determined to escape from Mexico's maximum-security Altiplano prison, where he was locked up after a squad of Mexican Marines captured him in February 2014.

In the brazen July 2015 breakout that captured international headlines, Guzmán slipped into a roughly mile-long tunnel that had been secretly excavated beneath the prison. He made his getaway on a motorcycle attached to rails inside the ventilated and lighted passageway.

a woman wearing sunglasses posing for the camera: The wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Emma Coronel Aispuro, arrives at the US Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on January 14, 2019 in New York. © DON EMMERT, AFP/Getty ImagesThe wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Emma Coronel Aispuro, arrives at the US Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn on January 14, 2019 in New York.

Testifying through a Spanish translator, Lopez said Coronel began relaying the boss' instructions during a secret meeting that took place around April 2014 in Culiacán, Mexico.

Guzmán was "taking the risk ... and thinking of escaping from prison," Lopez said Guzmán's wife told him, the boss' sons and others during the meeting.

Recounting a follow-up session a month or so later, Lopez testified that Coronel relayed additional instructions from her husband to the plotters: "A tunnel had to be built and they should start to work." 

Watching and listening from a courtroom bench at the time, Coronel showed no evident emotion during the testimony as she fidgeted with her nearly waist-length dark hair.

She later declined to comment afterward about Lopez's testimony. Similarly, Brooklyn federal prosecutors at the time declined to discuss why Coronel had not been charged in her husband's criminal indictment.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: El Chapo's wife arrested on drug trafficking charge; detained without bail after court hearing

24. helmikuuta 2021 6:14:18 Categories: USA TODAY

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