El Chapo case: Chicago’s ‘cartel women’ traveled abroad, to J.Lo Las Vegas concert with drug money, FBI say

After Chicago cocaine kingpins Pedro Flores and Margarito Flores were arrested in 2008 for their dealings with Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, their wives made lavish trips to the Caribbean and Europe paid for with bundles of suspected drug money they collected. received by post, according to a court document.

Vivianna Lopez and Valerie Gaytan used drug money for the 2018 and 2019 trips, to Las Vegas for a Jennifer Lopez concert and to the Turks and Caicos, Dubai, Greece and Italy, a federal postal inspector said in an affidavit for a 2019 search warrant which has only now been made public.

The order was for a priority mail package with a return address for the mother of one of the Flores twins’ wives. The two women are only identified as “husband 1” and “husband 2” in the affidavit.

In June, Lopez, wife of Pedro Flores, and Gaytan, wife of Margarito Flores, were indicted by federal court in Chicago for helping to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money over a 12-year period beginning in 2008.

The money paid for schools for the twins’ children, Lopez’s student loans and an exercise bike, according to the indictment.

The affidavit details how the women spent the money their husbands are suspected of being hurled away after surrendering to authorities in 2008 and agreeing to become informants against Guzman.

In exchange for their cooperation with the prosecutors, the Flores twins received relatively light sentences of 14 years in prison.

Guzman — whom Pedro Flores testified against at his 2018 trial in New York — was sentenced to life in prison.

According to the October 15, 2019 affidavit for the search warrant, one of the Flores brothers’ wives spent $20,000 to $30,000 in cash per trip, including airfare and hotel accommodations for groups of people.

A man in a pickup truck would deliver the money to an undisclosed travel agency that booked the trips. A witness told authorities the money had been rolled up and “smelled funny,” likely because it was near drugs, according to the affidavit.

On July 19, 2018, customs officials met the women after their plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, arriving from the Turks and Caicos Islands. A woman had five cell phones, two with the Chicago area code. The other was carrying a sheet of notebook paper that, according to the affidavit, appeared to rake in tens of thousands of dollars from at least four packages.

“Cartel Wives, a true story of deadly decisions, steadfast love and the tearing down of El Chapo” by Vivianna Lopez and Valerie Gaytan.
Grand Central Publishing

According to the postal records, between 2017 and 2019, 82 parcels were delivered to addresses of one spouse and 55 to the other spouse’s home.

A separate search warrant was issued on September 27, 2019, after a drug-sniffing dog was alerted about a package addressed to one of the spouses. The package contained $5,000 in cash and a $500 gift card with a receipt from a Walgreens store on the 4300 block of South Archer Avenue. Security footage showed that a relative of the woman had sent that package and others, according to the affidavit.

Lawyers for Lopez and Gaytan did not respond to messages asking for comment.

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