Chicago’s ‘cartel wives’ traveled abroad, to J.Lo Las Vegas concert with drug cash, feds say
Vivianna Lopez and Valerie Gaytan — wives of former Chicago cocaine kingpins Pedro Flores and Margarito Flores — used drug money for 2018 and 2019 trips, newly unsealed affidavit says.
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 took lavish trips to the Caribbean and Europe that were paid for with bundles of suspected drug cash they got in the mail, according to a court document.
Vivianna Lopez and Valerie Gaytan used drug money for the trips in 2018 and 2019, flying to Las Vegas for a Jennifer Lopez concert and to the Turks and Caicos islands, Dubai, Greece and Italy, a federal postal inspector said in an affidavit for a 2019 search warrant that’s only now been made public.
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The warrant was for a priority mail package with a return address for the mother of one of the Flores twins’ wives. The two women are identified only as ‘Spouse 1’ and ‘Spouse 2’ in the affidavit.
In June, Lopez, the wife of Pedro Flores, and Gaytan, the wife of Margarito Flores, were charged in federal court in Chicago with helping to stash hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money over a dozen years, starting 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 provides more details on how the wives spent the money their husbands are suspected of squirreling away after they surrendered to authorities in 2008 and agreed to become informants against Guzman.
In exchange for their cooperation with prosecutors, the Flores twins got relatively light sentences of 14 years in prison.
Guzman — whom Pedro Flores testified against at his trial in 2018 in New York — got a life term.
According to the Oct. 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 cash to an unnamed travel agency that booked the trips. A witness told authorities the cash was rolled up and “smelled funny,” probably from being near drugs, according to the affidavit.
On July 19, 2018, customs officials encountered the wives after their plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, arriving from the Turks and Caicos.
One wife had five cell phones, two with Chicago area codes. The other was carrying a sheet of notebook paper that appeared to tally up tens of thousands of dollars from at least four packages, according to the affidavit.
According to postal records, 82 packages were delivered to addresses for one of the spouses between 2017 and 2019 and 55 to the other spouse’s home.
A separate search warrant was executed on Sept. 27, 2019, after a drug-sniffing dog alerted on 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 in the 4300 block of South Archer Avenue. Security footage showed a relative of the wife had mailed that package and others, according to the affidavit.
Lawyers for Lopez and Gaytan didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.