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Woman claiming to be drug trafficker's daughter is arrested

Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar is arrested at San Ysidro port of entry, U.S. official says. After questioning, she admits she is the daughter of Joaquin Guzman, leader of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel.

October 16, 2012|By Richard Marosi and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
  • Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, appears in 1993 after his arrest at a high-security prison on the outskirts of Mexico City. A woman claiming to be his daughter was recently arrested.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of Mexico's Sinaloa… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

SAN DIEGO — A woman claiming to be the daughter of the world's most wanted drug trafficker was arrested at the San Ysidro port of entry Friday afternoon after trying to enter the country with fraudulent documents, according to a criminal complaint and a high-ranking U.S. law enforcement official.

Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar allegedly told U.S. customs officers that she was traveling to Los Angeles to give birth. After questioning, she admitted that she was the daughter of Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, the leader of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel, said the unidentified official who is not authorized to speak about the case.

Guzman Salazar appeared Monday morning at the downtown federal courthouse in a hearing held under heightened security. Guzman Salazar's attorneys are Jan Ronis and Guadalupe Valencia, both known for representing high-profile drug trafficking figures. They would not comment on whether she was related to Guzman. The attorneys said after the hearing that Guzman Salazar is a medical doctor from Guadalajara who is seven months pregnant.

This wouldn't be the first time a relative of Guzman has traveled to the U.S. to give birth.

Last year, Guzman's wife, Emma Coronel, was driven through the Calexico border crossing to the Los Angeles suburb of Lancaster, where she gave birth to twin girls at Antelope Valley Hospital. A former beauty queen, Coronel is a U.S. citizen. No effort was made to detain her because she had no outstanding warrants and her documents were in order.

Guzman Salazar, who is a Mexican citizen, tried impersonating another woman when she presented her documents to customs officers in the pedestrian area of the border crossing linking Tijuana with San Diego, according to the criminal complaint. The customs officer detected the counterfeit U.S. visa that was in her Mexican passport and her true identity was confirmed later through a check of her fingerprints, according to the complaint.

Guzman Salazar is the daughter of Maria Alejandrina Salazar Hernandez, Guzman's first wife, according to the U.S. official. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted Salazar Hernandez and her son, Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, designating them as "key Sinaloa cartel operatives," prohibiting U.S. banks, companies or individuals from doing business with them and freezing their assets in the U.S.

Guzman Salazar, according to the official, was going to meet the father of her child who lives in Los Angeles. She doesn't appear to be a key figure in her father's drug trafficking operations, the official said.

She probably wanted her children to have U.S. citizenship, which is customary for many organized crime networks. "They like to have family members that can go back and forth," the official said.

Guzman, who controls the bulk of cocaine and marijuana trafficking into the U.S. from Mexico, has recently expanded his reach into Tijuana, taking advantage of the decline of the Arellano Felix drug cartel. U.S. authorities have placed a $5-million bounty on his head.

The next scheduled hearing for Guzman Salazar, who is being held without bail, is on Oct. 25.

Marosi reported from San Diego, Wilkinson from Mexico City.

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