Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of former drug cartel leader El Chapo, was sentenced to three years in prison on 30 November after pleading guilty to a range of drug-trafficking charges earlier this year.
The 32-year-old former teenage beauty queen and dual US-Mexico citizen married Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in 2007.
She pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to distribute drugs in the US, money laundering, and violating the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, also known as the “Kingpin Act”, for engaging in transactions with a person designated as a “significant foreign narcotics trafficker” by the US government.
She admitted to helping Guzman run the international Sinaloa drug cartel and conspiring in his prison escape in 2015. Guzman, 63, is serving a life sentence in Colorado for drug trafficking and money laundering.
She was arrested on 22 February at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. She has been jailed without bond in Virginia since her arrest.
Federal prosecutors sought a four-year prison sentence followed by a five-year period of supervised release, according to court filings. She potentially faced up to 14 years in prison under sentencing guidelines.
Judge Rudolph Contreras in US District Court in Washington DC ultimately sentenced her to 36 months, followed by 48 months of supervised release.
Anthony Nardozzi, deputy chief of litigation for narcotics at the Justice Department, told the court on Tuesday that Coronel was not an “organiser” in her husband’s sprawling drug empire, but rather a “cog in a very large wheel” of crime.
Prosecutors allege that she was a “co-conspirator in the activities” of the Sinaloa cartel from 2011 through at least 19 January 2017.
On 10 June, she pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement charging her with conspiring to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, one kilogram or more of heroin, 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, and 1,000 kilograms or more of pot, and conspiring to launder money from their sale.
Following Guzman’s imprisonment in 2014, she served as a courier to his organisation to deliver messages related to “drug debt collection, movement of drugs and weapons, and acts of violence”, according to prosecutors.
She also helped coordinate his escape by assisting with bribes to prison officials for a more favourable conditions for his prison escape via an underground tunnel from his cell in 2015, prosecutors alleged.
Despite federal sentencing guidelines set at 14 years for the charges against her, prosecutors sought a “downward departure” from the lowest-recommended side of a potential sentence, noting that she had played minimal role in Guzman’s empire and had turned herself into law enforcement.
She had no prior criminal history and “took accountability for her actions”, Mr Nardozzi said. She also forfeited $1.5m from cartel earnings to the government.
“I beg you to not allow [my daughters] to grow up without the presence of a mother,” she told the judge on Tuesday before the judge issued a sentence.
“I hope you raise your twins in a different environment than you’ve experienced to date,” Judge Contreras said. “Good luck.”