He was naked and afraid when he jumped down a hatch under his pop-up bathtub and disappeared into the sewer.
The Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo had no time to even throw on a pair of his favorite tighty whities when authorities staged a pre-dawn raid at one of his seven safe houses in Culiacán in February 2014, his former lover testified Thursday.
With Chapo’s wife sitting and listening intently in the galley, his mistress Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López gave her vivid account of the daring escape during what turned out to be the most telenovela-worthy day of Chapo’s now nine-week drug trafficking trial in Brooklyn.
Sánchez, 29, broke down crying so uncontrollably at one point, the judge had to give her several minutes to compose herself.
Emma Coronel, also 29, gave a little smirk when Sánchez wept but otherwise maintained her haughty demeanor, especially when Sánchez described sharing Chapo’s bed.
In her scintillating testimony, Sánchez said she was lying beside the womanizing narco around 3 a.m. on Feb. 16, 2014, when loud noises startled her awake.
“I heard, like, a lot of thumps and helicopters. I heard yelling,” she recalled.
Right outside the gated two-story property, complete with a swimming pool, the elite team of U.S. and Mexican forces was trying to break down the fortified door with a battering ram.
“They’re on us! They’re on us!” Chapo’s associate Carlos Manuel (Condor) Hoo Ramirez yelled as Chapo, whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, started running around in a panic, Sánchez said.
She said Chapo, completely nude, called her to the bathroom where Condor and a maid were standing around the tub.
Prior trial testimony revealed Chapo had a secret button behind a mirror that raised the tub to reveal a hidden entrance to a labyrinth of underground passages.
“There was like a lid on the bathtub that came up,” Sánchez testified. “I was like, ‘Do I have to go in there?…The entire tub was hollow underneath…It had a kind of a hydraulic (lift) — they call it a piston.”
Sánchez said she followed Chapo’s directions and climbed into the void.
“The first thing I saw was wooden steps,” she said. “I heard (Chapo) say to Condor, ‘Close up the tub.’”
Sánchez said “complete darkness” swallowed them once the hatch was closed.
“For me, it was horrible because I had never been in a place like that. It was a humid place with mud,” she told the jury.
She said Chapo and Condor used a steel wheel to open another hatch that led to the sewers.
Chapo ran ahead alone, she said, with the others following close behind.
Sánchez said they spent about an hour slogging through the sewer system, sometimes wading through putrid water reaching up to their thighs.
“(It was) enough to traumatize me,” she said.
They emerged somewhere near a river in Culiacán, she said, and Chapo would spend another six days on the run before the same group of law enforcement tracked him down and arrested him at a hotel in Mazatlán.
By that point, Chapo had reunited with Coronel, an ex-beauty queen, and their twin daughters.
Sánchez, now 29, told the dramatic story from the witness stand Thursday in large part to save her own skin.
A former legislator in Mexico, she was arrested in San Diego, Calif., in 2017 after U.S. authorities pieced together evidence she trafficked drugs and helped launder money for the Sinaloa Cartel.
She took a plea deal in October and now is cooperating with prosecutors to get a break on her sentence, she conceded Thursday.
Sánchez told jurors she was just 21 when a 50-something Chapo first started pursuing her in 2010. She became his mistress a year later, she testified.
Asked about the evolution of the relationship, Sánchez told the court she believed they were a genuine couple but that she also feared the cartel boss.
“Until today, I’m still confused, because I thought in our relationship we were romantically involved as partners,” she said.
“I was trying always to keep him happy. I was confused over my feelings for him. Sometimes I loved him, and sometimes I didn’t.”
Sánchez said she started moving marijuana for Chapo in October 2011. Eventually, the shipments topped 400 kilos, she testified.
She said Chapo personally sent her to their home state of Sinaloa and neighboring Durango — two points of the Golden Triangle — because she knew the communities and could find the right farmers to help the cartel.
Sánchez claimed she wasn’t paid for the work.
She said in the beginning, she saw Chapo once or twice a month, visiting him in various places including the Los Cabos residence where he narrowly escaped capture during a similar raid in 2012.
Sánchez wasn’t allowed her personal cell phone during the trysts, and guards would cover her eyes during some of the travel, she said.
She said the kingpin, now 61, later told her about his close call at the Los Cabos love nest and showed her the injuries he suffered hiding in some thorny bushes.
“His body had wounds on it. He was hurt,” she testified.
Sánchez echoed prior testimony about Chapo’s obsessive style, confirming he gave her a cellphone loaded with spyware and demanded daily communication.
“I had to climb up on a tall hill every afternoon to get (a) signal,” she said.
Chapo is now on trial for allegedly smuggling mass quantities of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the U.S. for distribution in New York City and elsewhere.
He has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges involving drug trafficking, money laundering, conspiracy and illegal firearms.
If convicted of the top count, leading the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, he faces life behind bars.
In further testimony Thursday, Sánchez said she only heard Chapo speak about violence once — but it terrified her.
She said it was when Condor told Chapo that a cartel member named Virgo was dead.
“He looked at me with a serious demeanor, and then he said some words I did not like,” she recalled. “What he said was, from that point on, whoever betrayed him, they were going to die — whether they were family or women.”
She said the statement convinced her Chapo had ordered Virgo’s death.
Sánchez ran for a legislative office in her hometown of Cosalá in Sinaloa in 2014.
She won by a large margin, she said, but was booted out near the end of her three-year term due to her ties to Chapo.