Oklahoma ranch linked to Mexican drug cartel's money laundering operation
By The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 8:00 p.m.
AUSTIN — A multimillion-dollar horse racing and breeding operation run from an Oklahoma ranch was actually a front for a notorious Mexican cartel to launder millions of dollars in drug money, prosecutors alleged Tuesday at the beginning of a trial for five defendants charged in the scheme.
Jose Trevino Morales, the younger brother of the suspected leader of the Zetas drug cartel, is charged with money laundering conspiracy. His trial along with four co-defendants facing the same charge began Tuesday in Austin, Texas.
Prosecutor Douglas Gardner told jurors that Trevino had been put in charge of the scheme by his brothers, who are alleged to be at the top of one of the biggest, most versatile and violent criminal organizations in the world. The scheme went through $16 million in horse-related expenses in 30 months, Gardner said.
Gardner painted a picture of a conspiracy in which horse owners, trainers and others crafted bank deposits to hide the true source of the operation's funding. He said they set up companies that bought horses with the cartel's money and even fixed the outcome of horse races.
“The Zetas make money by drugs, extortion, bribery and send the money to the U.S. to buy racehorses,” he said.
Gardner alleged Trevino, 46, ran the operation for his brothers — Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales. He alleged a Mexican businessman, Francisco Antonio Colorado Cessa, bought horses for the Zetas through his oil services company, which authorities say was also a front for the drug cartel.
The three other defendants on trial — Fernando Solis Garcia, Eusevio Maldonado Huitron and his older brother Jesus Maldonado Huitron — are accused of buying horses for the cartel or laundering money through personal accounts.
But David Finn, Morales' attorney, called his client a “legitimate horseman” who is being targeted by prosecutors due to his brothers' alleged crimes.
“This isn't some front,” Finn said. “It's a legitimate, real business ... built on the sweat of my client and his wife.”
Mario Cuellar, a government witness and former Zetas member, said he was responsible for funneling drug money from Mexico into the United States for buying horses. He described Miguel Angel Trevino Morales as an active participant who kept a listing of the horses' names and prices on his cellphone.
Jose Trevino Morales initially didn't want to get involved but eventually did in 2009 when he purchased a horse called “Tempting Dash,” said Cuellar, who is serving a lengthy prison sentence on a drug charge.
The trial was expected to last several weeks.
Morales' wife and daughter have pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Powerful quake shakes N. California; no injuries
- Climate contraptions get real consideration
- Kansas public school funding unconstitutional
- Toomey instrumental in derailing Justice nominee
- Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima radiation
- Climate contraptions get real consideration
- 273 cited in Ohio in year for texting, driving
- Consensus on how to notify data breach victims lacks
- Americans riding public transit in record numbers
- Officer among 3 men killed in Ohio club shooting
- 2 dozen injured as California school stage falls