I only know them from reading their book “Cartel Wives” and from our years of investigative work done in Chicago where we learned a great deal about their husbands.
Thanks to Margarito and Pedro Flores, the U.S. District Court of Chicago apprehended hundreds of narco traffickers and associates from Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. At the time, federal prosecutors called the Flores case, the biggest “in the history of Chicago.”
The brothers, who are twins, are serving a 12-year sentence in a protected federal prison. Their names are at the top of the witness list in the government’s case against Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, once the world’s most notorious drug lord who is currently in a maximum-security prison near New York, awaiting trial.
When they are released in 2021, they will go into the Witness Protection Program, but for now, their wives are exposed, living under the radar with their children. They claim they have jobs and try to lead a normal life - but after meeting them, they don´t seem the nine-to-five job type.
Before doing a secretive interview like this, there is a lot of back and forth negotiation, not from a journalistic point of view, but to figure out the logistics. According to their publisher, the ladies were nervous and wanted to make sure that their identities were protected during our interview for the show Aquí y Ahora.
The other issue was more complicated: Where and when we would do the interview? At first, I thought they were a bit paranoid when they requested security in New York, but then I remembered a few blocks away from the proposed interview location, El Chapo was sitting his special basement jail cell.
The wives requested security during the entire interview and they recommended a company they “had done business with in the past”. That implied hiring a bodyguard, a car and a driver to take them to our meeting.
We were more than a bit curious to speak to them because their story is both gripping as well as revealing, providing a rare glimpse into the lives their ingenious husbands who shipped tons of drugs for El Chapo. And we are not talking about the usual trophy wives narcos tend to go for, who are often kept at arms’ length from ‘el negocio.’ Far from it. These ladies were deep into their husbands’ affairs, and Olivia had been quite an accomplished trafficker in her own right , before meeting her husband.
They are also remarkably repentant, not something one usually comes across in narco households. They say they wrote the book in order to persuade others not to fall into the narco life.
They stress that their husbands chose to opt out of that luxury yet risky lifestyle, not because they were arrested. Instead, it was their husbands who contacted the DEA and turned themselves in.
Born in Chicago to Mexican immigrant parents, the Flores twins were at the top of their game in the drug world. They were by far, the biggest drug distributors in the United States for the Sinaloa Cartel moving millions of El Chapo´s drugs every month. But Margarito and Pedro Flores wanted out and the only people that could help them was the U.S. government.
They turned informants and for months, still in Mexico, they recorded every conversation and movement of drugs into the United States which they passed on to a special DEA group across the border. Federal agents admitted they had no idea the scope of the involvement of the Flores brothers with the Sinaloa Cartel until the information started pouring in.
To the DEA’s almost incredulous delight, they were able to record El Chapo in person negotiating a drug deal.
The interview: wigs and lighting
Olivia and Mia Flores arrived on time for the interview. Dressed all in black and in spite of their four inch heels, they still looked small and petite. I didn't ask, but I'm sure they were wearing wigs. They came with two men; one was the bodyguard and the other I didn´t know but he had a watchful eye on the monitors to make sure the cameras did not show their faces during the interview.
The Univision cameraman lit the ladies so their faces would be hidden by shadows. I asked them to remove any jewelry that could identify them. One of the wives had a tattoo which she tried to cover several times unsuccessfully, until I got a concealer from my make-up bag and like magic, the tattoo was gone. They were both very nervous but very courteous and they even seemed a bit timid.
Mia’s hair was short and blond and Olivia’s was black and long. Mia says she has Brazilian roots and you can tell her skin is lighter than Olivia´s but I can´t tell you the color of her eyes because they never took off their sunglasses. They wore designer clothes; I recognized Olivas’s pumps from Yves Saint Laurent that go for about $1,000.
They both admit in the book they underwent several surgeries but I didn't ask for details. After all, the reason they were there was to talk about their husband’s drug business.
During the interview, Olivia did most of the talking. She is the older of the two and with more experience in the drug business. By the time she had met her husband, Margarito Flores, she had already been in a Mexican jail, her first husband was sitting in prison and her second husband, a leader of The Latin Kings gang, had been murdered in a Chicago street.
Mia is the opposite, she had never crossed paths with drug violence until she met Pedro Flores. After talking with them for about two hours I sensed Olivia was the protector. But even though Mia is the quiet one, I got the impression she is just as strong or maybe more, than her sister-in-law. It’s clear they are very close, almost like sisters.
Our interview lasted a little more than an hour. Olivia recalled in detail her husband’s business while in Mexico and Chicago, she explained the relationship between the brothers and El Chapo. She described how they introduced El Chapo to new, high tech trafficking methods, which is why he valued them so highly.
They also spoke of how they let their families down. Their fathers are both Chicago policemen.
“It’s ironic, and hard, to sit here and watch both our fathers put on their suit of armor and their badge, and they are going out there on the streets of Chicago,” Miami confessed. “It’s the very same streets that our husbands were flooding with drugs. When you are in love, you just don’t think about it.”
After the cameras were off and the microphones put away, we said good bye like old friends, Latinas are like that. I walked them to the elevator and they went back to their hidden lives.