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Wives of Chicago twins who helped convict El Chapo charged in money laundering case

The former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s office in Chicago said the women betrayed the U.S. government, which got them out of Mexico after their husbands agreed to cooperate against Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

Pedro Flores (left) and his twin brother Margarito Flores, once Chicago’s biggest drug traffickers, rose from street-level Chicago drug dealers to the top of the cartel world — and, when they got caught, helped bring down Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the Mexican drug kingpin who headed the Sinaloa cartel
U.S. Marshals Service

When he sentenced the twin Chicago drug dealers who famously turned on the world’s most powerful cartel kingpin, a federal judge made clear he thought the much-heralded informants had money stashed away for when they got out of prison.

“Everyone in the city thinks you have money … everyone,” then-U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo told Pedro and Margarito Flores back in January 2015.

It turned out to be quite a hunch, as federal prosecutors announced a newly unsealed indictment Tuesday charging five people, including the Twins’ wives, in a money-laundering conspiracy that allegedly began with the Twins’ surrender in December 2008.

Named as defendants in the indictment are Vivianna Lopez, the wife of Pedro Flores, who’s also known as Mia Flores, and Valerie Gaytan, the wife of Margarito Flores, also known as Olivia Flores. The charges come more than a year after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that prosecutors had changed their tune toward the Twins.

Jack Riley, the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s office in Chicago, said Tuesday that the women betrayed the U.S. government, which spirited them out of Mexico after their husbands agreed to cooperate with prosecutors here against Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

“These two nitwits have played innocent for years now and they were very much involved in the movement and hiding of money,” Riley said. “We knew that early on, but it was very difficult to prove.”

Riley said, “We bent over backwards, more so than I have ever seen, to safeguard them and get them out of Mexico.”

Also charged in the indictment are Armando Flores, of Texas, the Twins’ brother, who served a federal prison sentence for drug dealing in the early 2000s; Laura Lopez, of Chicago, an aunt of Vivianna Lopez; and Bianca Finnigan, of northwest suburban Sycamore, Vivianna Lopez’s sister.

The Twins’ wives previously published a book — “Cartel Wives” — in which they described having access to unimaginable riches in Mexico. Writing under pseudonyms, they said their husbands showered them with red roses by the dozens, 10-carat diamond wedding rings and getaways at luxury resorts in Puerto Vallarta. They lived in a mountaintop estate with a private zoo including horses, monkeys and a tiger cub.

The U.S. government seized more than $4 million from the Flores brothers and provided $300,000 to their family members for living expenses. But the Twins’ spending while in protective custody had prompted questions about whether other money had been hidden away. Pedro Flores gave his wife a $200,000 Bentley before he went to prison, a gift authorities called “wholly inappropriate.”

Castillo gave the Twins 14 years in prison in January 2015 but warned they’d live their lives in fear after turning on the Sinaloa cartel.

The indictment unsealed Tuesday says the Twins’ wives helped stash away hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money over a dozen years, starting with their husbands’ surrender in December 2008.

The indictment alleges $165,558 was spent at private schools attended by the Twins’ children, that $99,780 was used to pay for international and domestic travel by the Twins’ wives, $11,000 went to child support for Pedro Flores’ child, and $6,000 went to Vivianna Lopez’s student loans. Another $30,099 was allegedly spent on Vivianna Lopez’s laundry business.

Vivianna Lopez even allegedly spent $3,141 in drug money on an exercise bike system.

The feds also say $5,000 went to Pedro Flores while he was behind bars and $5,500 went to others in federal custody.

Prosecutors are seeking a $504,858 judgment against the Twins’ wives.