SAN DIEGO — A pregnant woman believed to be the daughter of the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of misusing a visa, lying to a federal officer and aggravated identity theft.
No new details about Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar were revealed during her brief federal court hearing before Magistrate Judge Jan Adler.
But a defense lawyer who is following the case said afterward that the charges the government brought strongly indicate that Guzman is the daughter of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The leader of the Sinaloa cartel is one of the world’s most sought criminals.
Alejandrina Guzman was arrested Oct. 12 at the San Ysidro Port of Entry trying to enter the country with a fraudulent non-immigrant visa. She reportedly told officials she is the daughter of the drug lord.
Her attorneys declined to confirm that. On Thursday, attorney Frank Morell took over the case, replacing Guadalupe Valencia and Jan Ronis, two lawyers who have represented cartel figures in the past. Valencia declined to say what led to the switch.
The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory, two-year minimum sentence in federal prison. Anthony Colombo Jr., a San Diego defense lawyer who represented drug trafficker Benjamin Arellano Félix, said that charges brought in the indictment are “very unusual for this type of case.”
Normally, Colombo said, someone with no record who tries to enter the country illegally, as apparently is the case with Guzman, would be sent back immediately or, if charged, be eligible for a fast-track program that disposes of minor cases quickly and includes a sentence of 60 days or so.
“In my view, the indictment shows the government has confirmed she is Chapo Guzman’s daughter,” he said. “I think the reason they’ve charged it this way is they want leverage over her to force her into talking about her father.”