FORMER MEX LEGISLATOR/ALLEGED MISTRESS OF EL CHAPO arrested in California on drug trafficking, money laundering charges
ABOVE + BELOW – Lucero Sánchez arrested in California
The former legislator, who is linked to “El Chapo” Guzman, was arrested by the US Border Patrol and is accused of conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
“She was detained by the US government apparently accused of conspiracy, the reason for her presence is that she feels threatened in Mexico,” said her lawyer.
BACKGROUND: Alleged mistress of ‘El Chapo’ denied bail in San Diego drug trafficking prosecution
An alleged mistress of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, under arrest on accusations of helping launder money for his Sinaloa cartel, was denied bail Thursday by a San Diego federal judge.
Several factors weighed in favor of the judge’s decision to keep 28-year-old Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López behind bars: She has no ties to the U.S., her visa had been revoked, she is alleged to have close links to Guzmán and his inner circle, and she is accused of acting corruptly during her stint as a Mexican legislator. Perhaps most importantly, a prosecutor described in court how Sánchez tried to flee shortly after being arrested at the Cross Border Xpress, a secure passage connecting Tijuana’s A.L. Rodríguez International Airport to San Diego.
Sánchez had already been arrested, fingerprinted and photographed at the facility after her June 21 arrest and was sitting on a bench, not handcuffed, when she ran out of the room and up a flight of stairs toward Mexico, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Mellor said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers yelled at her to stop, chased her and tackled her. She resisted, Mellor said.
Sánchez faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of the charge, conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. On Thursday, dressed in a bright yellow jail jumpsuit, she listened to the arguments with her head down, her face repeatedly twitching. She wiped away tears at times.
She is accused of facilitating communications between Guzmán, the top tier of his cartel and the lower operatives. In an affidavit supporting her arrest, a Homeland Security Investigations agent alleged Sánchez was behind different code names in text messages that coordinated the flow of money to the cartel.
The messages were intercepted as part of a wiretap investigation by federal authorities in Arizona. At the time the messages were sent, in 2013 and 2014, Sánchez was a legislator for the Mexican state of Sinaloa, Guzmán’s stronghold.
Mexican media have said she is the youngest legislator to be elected in the state. At her entertainment-heavy campaign rallies, voters were given gifts, media there reported.
Sánchez — the wife of a veterinarian and mother to three children in Mexico, according to her San Diego attorney — has long been rumored to be romantically linked to Guzmán, an allegation further outlined in the affidavit.
She has denied those reports, as well as rumors that the drug lord has fathered one of her children.
Her journalist ex-husband was gunned down outside a home in Sinaloa in 2014.
The affidavit says Sánchez told a cartel member who was cooperating with U.S. investigators that she was Guzmán’s girlfriend and that she was with the kingpin when he fled from Mexican officials on Feb. 16, 2014.
When authorities raided Guzmán’s home in Culiacán, Sinaloa, she said the two fled into a tunnel constructed under a bathtub, the affidavit says. U.S. investigators in Nogales, Ariz., intercepted other communications that verified her story, the document says.
Sánchez told the informant she advised Guzmán to go to Cosalá, Sinaloa, “because she worked there as a ‘deputy,’” the document says.
Guzmán was apprehended about a week later in Mazatlán.
Sánchez had reached out to the informant after Guzmán’s arrest because she wanted to get in touch with Guzmán’s sons, code name “Los Menores.”
Guzmán boldly escaped from the Altiplano prison outside Mexico City in July 2015 through a tunnel in the floor of his cell’s shower. While a fugitive, Mexican officials said he spent New Year’s 2016 with Sánchez, just days before he was recaptured in Los Mochis, Sinaloa.
Sánchez left her legislator position in September, after being stripped of her legislative immunity, and soon after she was charged with using a false identification to enter the Altiplano prison during a September 2014 visit to see Guzmán.
Sánchez claims she is not the one captured on the video visiting Guzmán that day, and on her Facebook page she has repeatedly professed her innocence.
“I’m confident that justice will be done, and everything will be resolved,” she wrote in June 2016.
She was out on bond in Mexico on that case and had been complying with the terms of her release when she crossed into the U.S. last week, her San Diego federal defender, Joshua Jones, said in court Thursday.
Sánchez’s border crossing card was canceled by the U.S. State Department due to her alleged involvement with the cartel, although she was not aware of that when she tried to enter the country last week, Jones said.
Notably absent from Jones’ arguments during the detention hearing was the suggestion that Sánchez was trying to seek asylum.
Her Mexican lawyer, Francisco Verdugo, told The San Diego Union-Tribune last week that she had received death threats in Mexico and came here to investigate the possibility of getting government protection for her and her children. She left the children with family members.
Verdugo said Sánchez did not know she was under investigation and wouldn’t have come if she’d known.
Alternatively, Sánchez told border authorities that she was crossing to go shopping in Lynwood in the Los Angeles area, said Mellor, the prosecutor.
Her next court appearance is set for July 20, the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s deadline for securing a grand jury indictment against her. Her financial ability to hire her own attorney will also be argued then.
During her initial court appearance, Sánchez asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major to appoint a lawyer and filled out financial paperwork that indicated she could not afford to hire her own attorney.
The prosecutor objected, saying the investigation suggests Sánchez has access to significant resources.
Guzmán is currently in prison in New York City, where he was extradited in January to face U.S. charges of running a massive drug organization. He has also been charged in San Diego and elsewhere.
He has been complaining about the conditions of his captivity, including being in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day and not having contact with his family. He is allowed to send messages to his common-law wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, a former beauty queen with whom he has children. To see her husband, she must attend the court hearings.
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