SAN DIEGO – The daughter of one of the world's most sought-after drug lords has been charged with trying to enter the United States on someone else's passport, U.S. officials said, becoming the latest family member to become ensnared in U.S. courts.
Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar, 31, was arrested Friday at San Diego's San Ysidro port of entry.
Two U.S. officials said Monday that she told authorities her father was Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the elusive leader of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the arrest publicly.
The significance of the arrest will depend on what Guzman Salazar can tell authorities about her father, like whether she can provide phone numbers, said David Shirk, director of the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute.
"We don't know exactly what she knows," said Shirk. "It may just be an interesting factoid in the war on drugs or it could be a vital clue for law enforcement."
Shirk noted that Benjamin Arellano Felix , who led what was then Mexico's most powerful drug cartel, was captured in Mexico in 2002 after authorities tracked his daughter to find him.
Guzman Salazar was charged with fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents. The complaint said she attempted to enter the country on foot, presenting a non-immigrant visa contained in a Mexican passport. She told authorities she was pregnant and intended to go to Los Angeles to give birth to her child.
The Los Angeles Times reported last year that Guzman's wife — former beauty queen Emma Coronel — traveled to Southern California and gave birth to twin girls at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, north of Los Angeles. The newspaper said Coronel, then 22, holds U.S. citizenship, which entitles her to travel freely to the U.S. and to use its hospitals.
"You kind of surmise that there's some family connection back to Southern California," Eric Olson, associate director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute said of the daughter's arrest.
The Sinaloa cartel, named after the Pacific coast state of the same name, controls trafficking along much of the U.S. border with Mexico, particularly in Western states.
Authorities in the U.S. and Mexico have said they believe Guzman has children with several partners, though it's not clear how many. The U.S. Treasury Department has put sanctions on sons Ivan Archivaldo "El Chapito" Guzman Salazar, 31, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 22.
Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, 26, was indicted with his father on multiple drug trafficking charges in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in August 2009.
Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department said it was placing financial sanctions on Guzman's wife, Griselda Lopez Perez. The department said at the time that she "plays a key role" in the Sinaloa cartel.
Lopez Perez was the second wife of Guzman designated under the U.S. Kingpin Act, which bars U.S. citizens from making business transactions with that person and allows authorities to freeze their assets in the United States.
In June, the department imposed sanctions on Maria Alejandrina Hernandez Salazar, who it also described as a wife of Guzman.
The arrest and investigation of Guzman Salazar was handled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the nation's largest border crossing in San Diego.
A bail hearing was scheduled Oct. 25.
Guzman Salazar has hired Jan Ronis, whose roster of clients with links to organized crime has included Arellano Felix. Ronis said he was just learning about the case and declined to comment on the charges.