Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of convicted Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was sentenced to three years in federal prison Tuesday.

The 32-year-old California native had previously pleaded guilty in June to three charges related to drug trafficking and conspiracy of the same, as part of a plea bargain struck with federal prosecutors. 

At her sentencing hearing in Washington U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Coronel Aispuro said she had “true regret for any and all harm” caused by her involvement with the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel. 

“I am here before you, asking for forgiveness,” she told the court through a translator. 

Emma Coronel Aispuro Helped El Chapo Run His Empire

According to federal prosecutors, the 32-year-old former beauty pageant contestant had conspired to aid her husband El Chapo run his multi-billion dollar drug trafficking empire. She had also pleaded guilty to laundering profits from narcotics sales and engaging in illegal financial dealings related to properties owned by her husband. 

Authorities said Coronel Aispuro had also helped her husband break out of a Mexican prison in 2015 by smuggling him a “GPS watch” disguised in a food item. The device reportedly allowed El Chapo’s men to pinpoint his position in the prison and dig a tunnel to his cell for his escape. 

She was also accused of passing messages from El Chapo in prison to his subordinates, allowing him to maintain control of his empire from behind bars. 

Prosecutors said Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of notorious cartel boss Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, helped him run his drug smuggling business. She was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of notorious cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, helped him run his drug smuggling business. She was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday. Photo credit: Shutterstock

“He chose her to move those messages to people who worked for him,” said Anthony Nardozzi, a federal prosecutor, calling Coronel Aispuro a “cog in a very large wheel.”

The notorious cartel boss was later recaptured, and is currently serving a life sentence in the supermax federal prison in Florence, Colorado. His wife was arrested at Dulles Airport in Washington in February, though some reports citing anonymous sources claimed she turned herself in voluntarily. 

Emma Coronel Aispuro was arrested in February. She'll spend threer years in prison, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Emma Coronel Aispuro was arrested in February. She’ll spend three years in prison for helping her husband El Chapo run his cartel, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. Photo credit: Alexandria Sheriff’s Office

Lenient Prison Sentence for Coronel Aispuro

While Coronel Aispuro was facing a minimum 10-year sentence by statute, prosecutors only requested a four-year stint for the mother of two.  

In the end, she was given a reduced sentence under the “safety valve” provision, because her crimes were not violent, she had no prior criminal history, and she didn’t hold a leadership position within the cartel structure. 

Noting her peripheral role to the cartel’s operations, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras pointed out that Coronel Aispuro’s arrest had virtually no impact on the drug smuggling business. 

“There appears to be no shortage of willing participants,” he said Tuesday. 

Defense lawyers for Coronel Aispuro told Judge Contreras that the 32-year-old met El Chapo when she was 17, and that they married when she turned 18. 

Emma Coronel Aispuro will spend three years in prison, after pleading guilty to helping her husband El Chapo run his drug-smuggling empire from behind bars.
Emma Coronel Aispuro will spend three years in prison, after pleading guilty to helping her husband El Chapo run his drug-smuggling empire from behind bars. Photo credit: Instagram

“This [relationship] began when she was a very impressionable minor married to a powerful man more than three decades older,” said attorney Jeffrey Lichtman

Lichtman also blasted media reports from last summer that alleged Coronel Aispuro was cooperating with the federal investigation against her husband. Informants (and even suspected informants) are routinely killed in Mexico, the attorney said, meaning that his 32-year-old client may never be able to safely return to the country. 

Before Judge Contreras handed down the sentence, Coronel Aispuro reportedly asked him to consider her twin 9-year-old daughters, who have already lost their father, she pointed out. 

“I hope you raise your twins in a different environment than you’ve experienced to date,” the Judge said. “Good luck.”