NEW YORK – Move over, Bonnie and Clyde: Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López are allegedly the world’s latest male-female crime duo.
They made their public debut Thursday before a Brooklyn federal court, where the onetime mistress and alleged partner in narcotics trafficking testifying against the accused Mexican drug lord – all as his wife looked on.
By turns almost breathless and at one point in tears, Sánchez, 29, recounted a three-year relationship in which she said she periodically shared Guzmán’s bed, helped him buy hundreds of kilos of marijuana and joined the buck-naked alleged leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel in escaping Mexican Marines via a secret underground tunnel.
“As far as today, I’m confused,” Sánchez testified through a Spanish interpreter. “I thought we were still involved romantically as partners.”
If Guzmán’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, was angry about the infidelity, she wasn’t saying.
“I don’t speak English,” she said, in English.
Sánchez wore a light blue jail smock as she testified – she pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge last year.
Flipping on her former lover, she acknowledged that she hopes prosecutors will ask a sentencing judge to grant her leniency in return for her cooperation.
Sánchez is the latest in a string of alleged former associates and underlings who have testified against Guzmán, giving jurors what prosecutors say is an inside look at a sprawling narcotics operation that smuggled tons of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the United States.
But Sánchez’s account was different. She gave jurors a look at the most intimate and temperamental side of the lover more than 30 years her senior.
They met in 2011, she said. Within months, she said, she was traveling to the Sinaloa mountains, buying hundreds of kilos of marijuana for Guzmán’s operation as an unpaid helper.
She told jurors that she had kilos of marijuana in one shipment marked with a heart and the number 4, symbolizing her love for the man whose birthday is April 4th.
But she was also miffed that the assignment kept her away from him, she said, and so bought a lower-quality shipment that contained many seeds.
“I sent him packages with seeds because I wanted him to get upset with me and tell me to come back,” she said.
Her wish ultimately was granted. She said Guzmán transferred her to Mexico City to set up a front company, a phony juice business that was used to launder profits from drug profits.
By Sánchez’s account, both partners sometimes flashed anger at one another.
Guzmán told her he was proud of her, she said, but also warned cryptically that the Mafia “kills people,” particularly if they snitch.
Another time, Sánchez said, she was startled when her lover loudly threatened to kill anyone who betrayed him – even a family member.
Sánchez said she later learned that her lover had ordered the death of an uncle.
“Sometimes I loved him, sometimes I didn’t,” she said.
The relationship grew cold in 2013, Sánchez said. Still, she said, she agreed when Guzmán called her in early 2014 and asked her to join him in Los Cabos.
They met in one of his safe houses there, she said, and talked for hours before retiring for the night.
Before dawn, she said, the couple’s slumber was interrupted by loud banging. Mexican Marines were using a battering ram to break through the front door.
They escaped, she said, with a maid and a Guzmán aide nicknamed Condor, by climbing through the entrance of a tunnel hidden under a bathtub. Guzmán was naked, she said, but Sánchez and the others had managed to get partly dressed.
The tunnel led them to the local sewer system, where Sánchez said she could feel water lapping around her legs.
The group emerged near a small stream or river, she said.
An earlier trial witness, Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Victor Vazquez, told jurors he was with Mexican Marines who captured Guzmán weeks later in a Mazatlán hotel.
He was with his wife, and their twin baby daughters, Vazquez said.
The experience of testifying against appeared to inflict a heavy emotional strain on Sánchez.
She appeared unsettled as she returned from an afternoon recess. Later, when she retreated briefly to a waiting room, she could be heard over a lapel microphone, sobbing.
Guzmán’s wife said nothing but appeared to smile.