Sinaloa cartel wife sentenced to prison in El Chapo-linked money laundering scheme

Margarito Flores' wife, Valerie Gaytan, also known as Olivia Flores, gets 3.5 years in prison

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Monday, September 25, 2023
Cartel wife sentenced to prison in money laundering scheme
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Valerie Gaytan, also known as Olivia Flores, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for a money laundering scheme linked to El Chapo.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC 7 I-Team has learned the wife of a convicted cartel member was sentenced Monday in a Chicago courtroom to three and a half years in prison.

Prosecutors say Valerie Gaytan, also known as "Olivia Flores," is the wife of Margarito Flores, who, along with his twin brother Pedro, cooperated with the feds against their former boss: Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Both twin brothers were once considered El Chapo's most trusted allies.

Gaytan and Pedro Flores' wife, Vivianna Lopez, also known as "Mia Flores," proudly branded themselves as the "Wives of the Cartel," in both print and on TV.

But the wives allegedly turned to crime themselves, and didn't get away with the global vacations, shopping sprees, private schools, a J-Lo concert and other wealthy amenities that investigators alleged came straight from the drug trade.

Gaytan and Lopez were indicted back in 2021 on money laundering charges after prosecutors alleged they hid millions of dollars in drug proceeds from the government.

Both wives had thought they hoodwinked federal authorities by claiming they had turned over a full stash of drug money amassed by their husbands, when, prosecutors said they had, in fact, siphoned off millions of dollars and hid it in secret locations, including under floor boards.

The wives' stash of cash totaled $5 million, according to federal law enforcement officials.

"[Gaytan] spent those proceeds between 2008 and 2020 in ways she knew were designed to conceal the fact that it was leftover drug money," prosecutors alleged in a sentencing memorandum for Gaytan filed earlier this month.

The court filing continued, "She did so even after she and her co-defendant, Vivianna Lopez, turned in approximately $4 million in drug proceeds that was represented to the government as being the remaining cash from the husbands' drug operation. This was false, however."

The I-Team previously reported that the stashed cash was used to pay for global vacations, $165,000 for private schools, shopping sprees, a J-Lo concert and even currency laundered through friendly gas stations.

Gaytan tried to defend herself in court, stating she thought she was granted immunity due to her husband's cooperation with federal officials against El Chapo.

Prosecutors rebuffed that claim, and a judge agreed.

Earlier this year, Gaytan and Lopez pleaded guilty to money laundering charges.

Prosecutors asked the judge overseeing the case to sentence Gaytan to five years in prison, but on Monday, a judge sentenced Gaytan to three and a half years in prison.

Michael Clancy, an attorney representing Gaytan, told the I-Team his client was grateful for the more lenient sentence.

"We do not believe the prosecution of Ms. Gaytan was justified as discussed in our motion to dismiss that was denied," Clancy said by email. "However we also believe that although any sentence to imprisonment is especially harsh, given her circumstances, that the Court was thoughtful and compassionate given the range of sentencing she faced."

As for Gaytan's husband, Margarito Flores, after serving a 14-year prison sentence, he is now assisting law enforcement with seminars on how to detect drug shipments.

El Chapo is currently serving a life sentence in America's escape-proof SuperMax prison south of Denver, Colorado.