One story made international headlines. The other barely blipped on the media radar.
For those following the international narcotics trade, which historically has had many links to Las Vegas, both hold the promise of intrigue and insight into the flow of cartel drugs and money through the valley.
The first is the made-for-tabloid television tale of the ‘cartel princess’ Emma Coronel Aispuro, the former beauty queen and wife of imprisoned Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, whose glamorous life was interrupted with her February arrest on charges of conspiring to distribute large quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine.
The mother of twin daughters made a nightly star turn in New York during Guzman’s 2017 drug trafficking and racketeering trial, during which it was revealed that she had played an integral role in the Sinaloa boss’s 2015 escape from a Mexican prison. Instead of keeping a lower profile, she courted the spotlight with an appearance on a cartel-themed reality television show, Cartel Crew and in 2019 launched a Chapo-themed clothing brand.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement authorities have long tracked Sinaloa traffickers and operatives to Las Vegas, which is recognized as an active distribution hub for the cartel.
Mike Vigil, the former chief of International Operations for the DEA, tracked Sinaloa’s ever-expanding influence in the drug world for many years. Although he’s now retired, Vigil brings a rare insight into the Coronel arrest. All the glitz aside, her cooperation could devastate the cartel. She’s not just another pretty face.
“Emma Coronel is not somebody that penetrated a criminal organization,” he says. “She was born into the drug trade. She grew up in the mountains of Durango, and her father, Ines, and her brother, Omar, were drug traffickers. She was knowledgeable of the drug trade, and then she