CHICAGO (WLS) -- El Chapo, once the wealthiest and most dangerous drug lord on earth, was double-crossed by twin brothers from Chicago's Little Village, Chapo's top aides in America's most lucrative illicit drug market: Chicago.
But after the Flores brothers turned on blood-thirsty El Chapo, their testimony putting Chapo behind bars for life, it was the Flores wives who turned to crime.
They proudly branded themselves "Wives of the Cartel," in print and on TV, but they didn't get away with the global vacations, shopping sprees, private schools, a J-Lo concert and other wealthy amenities.
Mia and Olivia Flores have pleaded guilty to federal charges including money laundering conspiracy.
Both women had pleaded not guilty and appeared headed to trial on charges in Chicago that they hoodwinked federal authorities by claiming they had turned over a full stash of drug money amassed by their husbands-totaling millions of dollars-when in fact they had siphoned other millions and hidden the money in secret locations.
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Mia Flores pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon in a federal courtroom in Chicago.
Olivia Flores pleaded guilty in a sealed document during mid-April, but the paperwork was just obtained on Thursday by I-Team investigators.
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The Flores plea agreements tell a Hollywood-style crime story in which hundreds of millions of dollars in El Chapo cartel money changed hands in Chicago and was sent to Mexico between December 2008 and March of 2020... but not before the Flores twin brothers in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood managed their cut.
The U.S. branch of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel drug business headquartered in Chicago had outposts in Columbia, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC, Detroit, Los Angeles and Vancouver "generating hundreds of millions of dollars," according to federal agents.
"There's a lot of evidence there. It looks like the feds had a strong case. It's a sensible thing for them to reach a deal," said former federal prosecutor and ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer.
Soffer said the wives were daring and fruitful - until they weren't.
"Evidently they're used to getting their way," Soffer said. "You know, it was a bold operation, and it lasted a long time and achieved great success and generated millions upon millions in revenue. But obviously it ultimately came to an end but a pretty fearless crew willing to take a lot of risks."
Soffer also pointed out the women did nothing to hide their drug world allegiance.
"It doesn't help the wives to being out there and touting their connections to the cartel. It certainly whets the appetite of the government," Soffer said. "That's enough to excite the government to pursue them criminally. They do themselves no favors though by claiming an attachment to the cartel."
When the twins decided to flip on their boss, the bloodthirsty kingpin and Chicago's Public Enemy Number One named El Chapo, there were millions of dollars in play that had to be cloistered and the "Wives of the Cartel" found hiding places in furniture shipments, under floor boards and was shipped by mail to various addresses and postal boxes. Their stash of cash totaled $5 million, according to federal law enforcement officials.
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However, it was obviously not well hidden because federal agents found it -- and them.
In some cases, the cash was used to pay for global vacations, $165,000 private schools, shopping sprees, a J-Lo concert and even currency laundered through friendly gas stations.
There is a maximum 20-year sentence for each of the women but government prosecutors will ask for several years less and the defendants will request even lighter treatment. A federal judge in Chicago will determine her actual fate.
Oddly, the "Wives of the Cartel" had claimed that they were given immunity from prosecution during their husband's legal cases-that they claimed should have let them off the hook from these crimes. A judge ruled that was malarkey.
As for the Flores twins themselves, once El Chapo's most trusted allies, they are now in the government's top-secret Witness Protection Program, according to I-Team sources after testifying against Chapo who is currently serving a life sentence in America's escape-proof "supermax" prison south of Denver.