Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López intended to seek political asylum in the United States for herself and her children after receiving death threats in Mexico, according to court documents cited by the San Diego Tribune.
The former state legislator from Sinaloa, who has been linked to notorious cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán was charged Thursday in San Diego federal court with conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Sánchez López who was a deputy in the stae of Sinaloa, the home base for native son Guzman and his drug trafficking business, flew into Tijuana Wednesday with the hope of crossing into California.
She was arrested around 9:30 a.m. at the Otay Mesa Cross Border Xpress, a bridge that connects Tijuana’s A.L. Rodriguez International Airport to San Diego.
Inside the safe house and escape tunnel used by Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ , after his last break from a Mexican maximum security prison
When a Customs and Border Protection officer checked her name, it was discovered that her visa had been cancelled by the State Department.
Upon further review, officials learned she was suspected of conspiring to distribute drugs in the United States through El Chapo’s network.
Additional checks of law enforcement databases revealed she was suspected of being involved in illegal drug trafficking and money laundering activities.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Sánchez López was caught on wiretap between 2013 and 2014 communicating with cartel operatives about coordinating the delivery of drug money and laundering.
U.S. authorities carrying out approved investigation of Sinaloa cartel members’ cellphones, captured two separate series of communications, [text messages], implicating Sánchez López in cartel distribution and money laundering.
The first from September 24, 2013, allegedly shows Sánchez, using the code name “Piedra”, coordinating with a top cartel lieutenant the payment of $500,000 to another cartel drug trafficker.
At the time, she was a “legislator-elect” in Sinaloa, having won election to a three-year term in July. She was not officially sworn in until Dec. 1, 2013.
In a second transaction on Jan. 20, 2014, Sánchez, this time using the code name “Maico”, communicated with an unidentified Guzmán lieutenant to coordinate delivery of $380,000 in laundered Mexican pesos that were the proceeds from drug trafficking.
Lucero Sánchez López was with El Chapo in 2014, when he eluded capture, escaping from this tunnel behind a bathtub in one of his safe houses in Culiacan, Mexico
She also admitted to being El Chapo’s girlfriend, though she has since repeatedly denied having a relationship with the Drug Lord.
A cartel member cooperating with U.S. investigators similarly confirmed she admitted to a relationship with El Chapo.
The wiretap also caught Sánchez López recalling how she was with Guzman when he famously escaped arrest in 2014 by fleeing through a tunnel in his home. The secret passage was hidden by a bathtub and led into the city’s sewers. For that close shave in 2014, investigators suspected they were closing in on Guzman when they discovered seven houses in Culiacan, Mexico, connected by secret tunnels that also tied in with the sewage system.
But finding him after they raided one of them was trickier than they thought.
“This particular house had bars on the windows. The front door was reinforced, and was so difficult to get in, it was like 10 minutes went by,” said Derek Maltz, who once led the Drug Enforcement Administration’s special operations division.
The time it took Mexican marines to get past the reinforced steel doors was enough to allow Guzman to escape. His route? A hidden hatch under a bathtub.
He was eventually arrested in February and Sánchez López reportedly used false identification to visit him when he was behind bars.
In July 2015, the kingpin escaped from prison, but was again arrested in January 2016 in Los Sinaloa. Officials said days ahead of his recapture, Guzman enjoyed New Year’s celebrations with Sánchez López, according to the Tribune.
Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman was extradited to the US in 2016 and is currently on trial for cartel related crimes
While court documents said Sanchez was under investigation for several years, her attorney said they were not aware she’d been at the center of an American probe.
“Neither she nor we had any idea that she was under investigation” in the U.S., lawyer Francisco Vergudo said. “If she had, she wouldn’t have gone there.”
In Mexico, the media have long speculated about an alleged love affair between Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López and “El Chapo” Guzmán, so there are suggestions the drug cartel head could be the father of two of her children.
Records show that the former legislator lost her husband Rubén Chávez Cháidez, only a month after she took office in the state Congress. Chaidez was gunned down by three men when he left home.
In January 2014, one of her sisters, Maria Carolina, was stabbed to death in Culiacán, Sinaloa. They found her dead in the yard of her house. Her ex-husband was convicted of the murder.
Former Sinaloa state congresswoman and now identified as a drug moll, Sánchez López is denying romantic links withe the cartel head some say fathered two of her children
In April 2015. an Incarcerated Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was visited at Altiplano penitentiary by a young brown haired caucasian woman with brown hair, accompanied by one of the Sinaloan capo’s lawyers. The ID used by the female visitor was later proven to be a fake. Sanchez was later positively identified as the female visitor, she had introduced herself as one of his associates while signing the visitor’s log.
But apparently the visit to the Altiplano jail was not the only encounter the legislator had with “El Chapo”, as it was confirmed this that she also visited El Chapo on 31 December of that year and spent the new year.
After the initial admission, Sánchez López his now denying any links with El Chapo Guzman: “I do not know him, I know him just like you, in the media, on TV, I have never had any rapport with him. It is totally false about the meeting in New Year, ” was her response to the charges brought against her.
Because she seemed a flight risk, Lucero Sánchez López was ordered held without bail.