The wife of a top Mexican cartel member who helped bring down Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been jailed for more than three years for hiding away millions of dollars of drug money.
Valerie Gaytan is married to Margarito Flores, who, along with his twin brother Pedro, cooperated with the US government against their former boss.
Prosecutors in Chicago allege that Gaytan and Vivianna Lopez, the wife of Pedro Flores, used the money go on luxury vacations and shopping sprees, pay for private schools and attend a J-Lo concert.
Both women were arrested in 2021 on money laundering charges as prosecutors claimed they had hidden the money from the government, reported The Chigaco Sun-Times.
Prosecutors say that they handed over $4.2m, that their husbands had but at the same time stashed away millions more and hid it away, including under floorboards.
But Gaytan admitted in April to keeping $2.3m that she knew was drug money.
“[Gaytan] spent those proceeds between 2008 and 2020 in ways she knew were designed to conceal the fact that it was leftover drug money,” prosecutors alleged in a sentencing memorandum.
And it added: “She did so even after she and her co-defendant, Vivianna Lopez, turned in approximately $4 million in drug proceeds that was represented to the government as being the remaining cash from the husbands’ drug operation. This was false, however.”
US District Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced Gaytan to 3.5 years in prison on Monday after she apologised to the court for hiding the cash.
“I just want to apologize to everyone that was involved in the prosecution for the time it took, the resources to investigate and prosecute me, and for wasting the court’s valuable time,” Gaytan said, according to The Sun-Times.
Judge Kennelly sentenced Lopez to 3.5 years in July.
The Flores twins grew up in Chicago and were convicted of importing tonnes of cocaine into the city, as well as New York, Cincinnati, Detroit, Vancouver and other cities between 2005 and 2008.
When they were sentenced in 2015 they received 14 years in prison, which they have already served after being released in 2020 into witness protection, for their cooperation with the government in prosecuting Guzman.
El Chapo is serving a life sentence at the supermax federal prison in Colorado after being convicted in 2019 in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
The drug kingpin’s son, Ovidio Guzman Lopez, was extradited from Mexico to Chicago earlier this month to face charges.