She's been dubbed the Kim Kardashian look-alike of Mexico – a raven-haired, perfectly made up beauty queen fond of flaunting her designer dresses, oversized sunglasses and bikini body for what was a growing flock of followers across social media.
Many of whom seem to love her. Others, not so much.
Meet Emma Coronel Aispuro, the 29-year-old wife of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, and the mother of their twin 7-year-old daughters.
“Emma doesn’t appear to be too shy, and continues to stay in the forefront with social media exposure,” Lenny DePaul, a retired Chief Inspector and Commander of the U.S Marshals Service, told Fox News. "She is now, and always was, someone to flaunt for the notorious drug lord.”
Her “public figure” Instagram account as of Thursday had more than 400,000 followers - and was groing rapidly by the day. Until it was apparently deactivated.
Among the posted content was a video posing for a selfie outside court with an apparent fan, paparazzi pictures of her donning all black, and flanked by guards and umbrellas heading out of the first day of her husband’s trial on Tuesday, along with the caption in Spanish “no matter what happens, I promised to be always and here I am. I’ll love you all my life.”
There were also snaps of a glammed-out Aispuro lounging poolside, surrounded by paparazzi as she strolls to her waiting car in oversized sunglasses, shooting a gun at an indoor range (with the phrase “practicing”), taking in a Yankees game, posing in a bikini on the beach, selfies with a “Halloween” reveler dressed El Chapo, and holding the hands of her twin daughters – who are always seen in matching dresses - and even have matching Louis Vuitton handbags.
But the pictures that hit the headlines – and ignited a firestorm – were from the elaborate Barbie-themed birthday party she threw in September to celebrate the twins seventh birthday. The lavish affair featured life-sized Barbie mannequins, thousands of balloons and flowers, carnival-style rides, and a Barbie "Boutique," all staged at a location that looked like a Hollywood movie set.
Those twins, by the way, were both born American citizens, since Aispuro crossed the Mexican border and gave birth to them at a hospital in Lancaster, Calif. - without filling in the paternal name on either birth certificate. Aispuro and her husband may have gotten that idea from her own experience since she, too, was born in Northern Calfifornia, even though her father was a known member of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
And what appears to be her twitter account - it's unverified - has been largely dedicated to her husband, filled with shout-outs in Spanish. But the account hasn't seen much action since last year.
“The night arrives and my heart remembers you, here where you always reside and where no one will erase you or replace you,” she wrote two days after Guzmán was extradited to the United States, in January 2017.
Aispuro is believed to Guzmán’s third or the fourth wife – with whom he married before divorcing at least one or two others. The other former spouses, according to officials in Mexico, lead very under-the-radar lives.
Guzman met Aispuro on a dance floor, when she was just 17. Months later, Guzmán reportedly paid to ensure she won a Coffee and Guava Festival beauty contest in Canelas, Mexico – although she has denied the sash was earned by anything by merit.
Most recently, Aispuro swapped her more curve-hugging designer duds for conservative blouses and streamlined black suits, for courthouse appearances.
Derek Maltz, former Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Special Operations Division in New York, surmised Aispuro is ultimately playing a strategic public relations campaign.
“It seems like the defense team is showcasing Emma and the kids in public so people may feel sorry for this man who will most likely be in jail the rest of his life,” he said. “Chapo was well-known to be a ladies’ man in Mexico and it didn’t seem like Emma played a major role in his life during the height of his criminal activities.”
In recent years, she has also taken on the role of Guzmán’s human rights and prison rights advocate. Soon after he was re-captured by Mexican authorities in 2016, she gave a demure, poised interview to Telemundo expressing concerns that the guards “don’t let him sleep and he has no privacy,” that she was “afraid” for his life and softly requesting that they treat him well and with dignity.
Aispuro has since campaigned for her husband before an array of humanitarian groups in Washington D.C., including the Organization of American States. She has also advocated for his rights while behind bars in New York.
While Aispuro’s apparent breeziness and love for her husband, despite him once being the most feared man in the world, the dark underworld of cartels is said to be nothing new to her.
“She is the daughter of another Mexican drug trafficker, so she was brought up in the business. They had to be married deep in Sinaloa countryside and their ‘reception’ amounted to a party on one of his ranches up in the hills,” said one former DEA official, referring to their secretive, July, 2007 nuptials. “As a U.S. citizen, she was able to legally cross the border and gave birth to Guzmán’s twin daughters in California, thus ensuring they too were U.S. citizens.”
Several other law enforcement officials also confirmed that, while his formal occupation was as a cattle rancher, Aispuro’s father, Inés Coronel Barreras, was connected to high levels of the Sinaloa cartel, and was believed to have cultivated opium poppies and marijuana.
Incidentally, no photographs of their wedding have ever surfaced.
Her lifestyle and penchant for Prada purses, however, raises questions about how she lives the high life. Although the U.S indictment against Guzmán asserts he was worth some $14 billion, it seems little south of the border has been seized – allowing her to lead a life of luxury.
According to DePaul, when it comes to freezing and seizing assets owned by the notorious drug lord, the onus is on the Mexican authorities to “take the lead.”
“I am sure the investigators here in the U.S. have been looking at Emma Aispuro for some time and will continue to monitor her digital footprints and her every move. Sadly, the millions of dollars, as well as real estate and jewelry, makes for a great bargaining tool when it comes to corruption,” contended DePaul. “It is a known fact that the bribing of prison officials and Mexican law enforcement existed when he escaped from his jail cell.”
J.T. Patten, a former government intelligence operative, told Fox News Aispuro's expenses are “paid for in cash and or are ‘arranged’ payments through family, business associates, and legal counsel.”
“I am quite certain that anything around her has been ‘legitimized’,” he said. “But most likely, any illicit connections have been cut.”
According to one U.S. government official connected to the Guzmán case, Aispuro is in the clear of any wrongdoing. A well-placed Mexican law enforcement source also told Fox News that investigations determined “Chapo and Emma’s dad decided not to involve Emma in his criminal net.”
“She has a mid to high-level house in Mexico City,” said the source. “But people still wonder why she has all those nice things.”
The Mexican Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Mexican Embassy in Washington, did not respond to a request for comment.
Another Mexican law enforcement authority asserted that Aispuro is loved in Sinaloa, but outside that sphere "is not well-liked."
“Mexicans are frustrated over the way this person can spend the illegal proceeds. So much money has been made over the last 30 years but this ruthless criminal,” said Maltz. “Emma’s side circus should not distract anyone now that has the job of convicting Chapo and serving justice for all those who have died due to Cartels.”
Aispuro cannot be compelled to testify against Guzmán, under the marital defense. But DePaul stressed “authorities are not taking any risks with regards to Emma and El Chapo.”
She has been denied permission for visitation to converse with her husband since his extradition from Mexico to the U.S in January 2017 – being branded as something of a security liability. Their contact has thus been nothing more than a wave across the courtroom, with Guzmán’s request to “hug his wife” denied by the judge last week.
Despite a flagrant reputation of philandering with prostitutes and other ladies – Aispuro is said to have remained deeply dedicated to the kingpin, who she incessantly proclaims as the love of her life.
“It’s a balance between looking like a princess but remaining part of the people,” Patten added. “She will need to come off like a beloved celebrity over a greedy elite dictator’s wife.”
Aispuro did not respond to an interview request.