Their friends think they’re “average soccer moms” separated from their husbands.
In reality, Olivia Flores and Mia Flores are in protective custody to avoid coming into contact with the hit men — sicarios — of the Sinaloa cartel.
They’re the wives of Chicago’s biggest drug traffickers — Pedro Flores and Margarito Flores Jr. — identical twins who cooperated with prosecutors against Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
In their new book “Cartel Wives,” the women describe once living in a Mexican mountaintop estate with servants and a menagerie of animals including horses, monkeys, even a tiger cub.
Olivia says she rubbed shoulders with Kanye West in New York as she tried to launch a musical career. Her husband played basketball with R. Kelly in Chicago, she says.
But the wives’ access to unimaginable riches and fame evaporated when their husbands surrendered to U.S. drug agents in 2008 and became the government informants they’d always despised.
The Flores twins and their spouses all grew up on the Southwest Side. The women were daughters of Chicago cops. The husbands learned the drug trade through their dad. And they learned well: In their heyday, they imported more than a ton of cocaine a month into Chicago and other cities through their cartel connections.
Now, they’re all in protective custody after the twins pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges and were sentenced to 14 years in prison.
“For the rest of your life, every time you start a car, you will be wondering, ‘Will this car start, or will it explode?’ ” U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo warned the brothers in 2015 at their sentencing in Chicago.
Their wives, who used pseudonyms in the book, say they carry the burden of that warning every day.
“Living in fear is a curse. You can’t sleep and you jump out of bed at even the smallest noise,” Olivia writes.
The book provides glimpses at life at the top of the drug world.
In 2005, Margarito Flores — whom his wife Olivia calls Junior — met with El Chapo at his mountaintop headquarters in Mexico to secure his twin’s release from kidnappers there.
The problem for Junior: He owed the kingpin $10 million.
“You know people that come up here don’t go back,” the book quotes El Chapo. “I could kill you and your brother right now and go about my day.”
Junior responds: “Yes, señor, I’m very aware. But I am here because I only have my word.”
Junior hands the drug lord a stack of ledgers detailing his payment history to the Sinaloa Cartel — proving he wasn’t shirking his debts to El Chapo.
Convinced, El Chapo orders the kidnappers to release Pedro Flores, and the twins go on to forge a lucrative partnership with the kingpin, who’d been scouting for talented businessmen with U.S. drug connections, like the twins.
In the end, though, they all wound up behind bars in the United States. El Chapo is now awaiting trial in New York on related charges, and the twins could be the star witnesses.
The Flores’ wives seem to struggle with whether their husbands were good guys or bad guys. They note their husbands forgave debts — and even a Chicago kidnapping and beating of Pedro that was orchestrated by a drug dealer working with a dirty Chicago cop — to put business ahead of revenge.
The wives say their husbands showered them with the best: red roses by the dozens, a 10-carat diamond wedding ring and getaways at luxury resorts in Puerto Vallarta.
But they also speak of the dark side of their husbands’ profession.
“We fell in love with criminals,” they acknowledge.
The wives write that their husbands witnessed men tied to trees, skinned alive, in Mexico — victims of the savage cartels with whom they worked. The fortune the twins amassed, according to their wives, was “dirty money with a trail of bodies behind it.”