FOR RICHER OR POORER
What Will Happen to El Chapo’s Wife, Emma Coronel?
Cartel leader is going to prison and his money is going to the U.S. government. Experts say his spouse should be fine, but she needs to be careful.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman faces a mandatory life sentence after being convicted Tuesday in a massive drug trafficking conspiracy. Guzman, whom prosecutors say ran Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, also stands to lose billions when prosecutors push for a forfeiture money judgement.
So what will become of Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel?
One criminal justice veteran, who has seen many organized crime cases, expects that the former beauty queen will be just fine.
“She will not be living in some hovel in Mexico City — I assure you of that,” he told The Daily Beast. “The children will be provided for, they’ll be taken are of.”
Forfeiture or not, Coronel will have access to money, he said.
“Whatever the government can grab, they’ll grab — but they won’t grab it all,” he said. “He’s got it stashed somewhere, and that’s how she’ll live.”
In cases involving organized crime, rival organizations will sometimes even help support families of newly incarcerated bigwigs, with a pay it forward-type mentality.
“They want the same thing to happen to their wives if the situation to be reversed,” he explained.
The same approach explains why she’s “absolutely not” in danger from other cartels — opponents wouldn’t want to see their loved ones get hurt.
Based on his involvement with mob cases for 50 years, he said Coronel will probably “move on within a couple of years.”
“She will not live the life of a nun,” he remarked.
Longtime criminal defense attorney Marvyn Kornberg told The Daily Beast that economics might play into the viability of their relationship.
“It’s very simple it depends who the defendant is: if a defendant is a run-of-the-mill, ordinary street guy, chances are the wife is gone,” he said. ”If, on the other hand, if the defendant is a man of means, the wife is likely to stick with him.”
As for whether Coronel will be in danger, Kornberg said “absolutely not, absolutely not.”
“There’s an unwritten rule — nobody goes after the wives,” he said.
With money, it’s not clear whether Coronel will have to cut costs soon.
“That’s between her, her husband and the government,” he said.
Rebecca Roiphe, a professor of law at New York Law School and former prosecutor, spoke generally about what might happen to spouses after a conviction.
One big question affecting Coronel’s financial security is how much money did Guzman use for his defense.
“That’s obviously one part of the story,” Roiphe said. “The second thing is: have there been, will there be, any forfeiture actions to recover some of the other property?”
Depending on how Coronel responds to forfeiture action, she could find herself in legal trouble.
“If she interferes with that action, she could face different liabilities,” Roiphe said.
David Weinstein — a white collar criminal defense lawyer at Hinshaw & Culbertson and former federal prosecutor in Miami who led the Southern District of Florida’s international drug trafficking unit — said Coronel’s finances will depend upon “how well the people who he had working for him put his property in other people names or her names.”
“She’s been in the background this whole time,” he said, but “if there was some role she may have played in laundering proceeds, and transferring messages, etcetera, they may have start looking into all of that.”
As far as her long-term safety, Weinstein said it’s unclear whether being a wife, or even Guzman’s wife, affords her protection from cartel rivals.
“They don’t really care about any of that,” he said. “If they have some revenge to exact, they’re going to exact that revenge.”
It was hard to tell whether Coronel was worried about her future in relation to Guzman’s fate today.
Minutes before the verdict, The Daily Beast asked Coronel what she would do if he were convicted. Coronel, dressed impeccably in a tailored green jacket, tight black pants and high-heeled boots, grinned.
When the jury handed down its verdict, Coronel remained expressionless and didn’t shed a tear. She also didn’t comment as she left the courthouse.
Asked how Coronel was faring, Guzman’s lead attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, commented “Emma is — look, you know...None of us are children. We all knew that this day was coming. We were hopeful that it wasn’t going to come.”