NEW YORK —Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez, the mistress of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, walked into a federal courtroom in Brooklyn on Thursday and laid bare the details of her relationship with him to save her own skin.
A former legislator in Mexico, she likely had little choice after her 2017 arrest in San Diego on suspicion she helped launder money for the Sinaloa Cartel.
She pleaded guilty to distribution of a controlled substance in October and is cooperating with prosecutors to get a break at sentencing, she conceded Thursday.
Sanchez, 29, told jurors she was 21 when she first met Guzman in 2010. She became his mistress a year later, she testified.
Asked about the evolution of the relationship, Sanchez told the court she believed they were a couple.
“Until today, I’m still confused, because I thought in our romantic relationship we were romantically involved as partners,” she said.
“I was trying always to keep him happy. I was confused over my feelings for him. Sometimes I loved him, and sometimes I didn’t.”
In a young-sounding but clear voice, Sanchez said she started moving marijuana for Guzman in October 2011. Eventually, the shipments topped 400 kilos, she testified.
She said Guzman personally sent her to their home state of Sinaloa because she knew the community there and could find the right farmers to help the cartel.
Sanchez claimed she wasn’t paid for the work.
In the beginning, she saw Guzman once or twice a month, she said, visiting him in various places including the Los Cabos residence where he nearly was captured in 2012.
She said the kingpin, 61, told her about that daring escape and showed her the injuries he sustained running away and hiding in some thorny bushes.
“His body had wounds on it. He was hurt,” she testified.
Sanchez echoed prior testimony about Guzman’s obsessive management style, saying he would call her every day to talk while she was working for him in Sinaloa.
“I had to climb up on a tall hill every afternoon to get (a) signal,” she said.
Sanchez reportedly was with Guzman when he fled U.S. and Mexican forces through a secret tunnel under a pop-up bathtub in 2014. Prosecutors were expected to ask her about that during further testimony Thursday.
Guzman is now on trial for allegedly smuggling mass quantities of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the U.S. for distribution in New York City and elsewhere.
He has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges involving drug trafficking, money laundering, conspiracy and illegal firearms.
If convicted of the top count, leading the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, he faces life behind bars.