20 years for Mexican druglord's brother
By Mira Oberman ,AFPCHICAGO -- The brother of a Mexican drug cartel boss was among three men handed lengthy U.S. prison sentences on Thursday for a money laundering scheme involving champion race horses, prosecutors said.
September 7, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Jose Trevino Morales, 46, was jailed for 20 years for his role in using millions in illegal drug money to buy, train and race quarter horses in the United States.
His brother, Los Zetas boss Miguel Trevino Morales, was captured by Mexican authorities in July in a major victory for President Enrique Pena Nieto who took office last year pledging to reduce a wave of drug-related murders that has left 70,000 people dead since 2006.
Jose Trevino and his wife Zulema Trevino were among seven people arrested in the United States last year in a raid which also saw more than 400 horses seized.
The quarter horse racing front appeared to be more than simply a shell corporation. Several horses had won major races, including Mr. Piloto, a US$1 million All American Futurity winner at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day 2010.
Nor were the accused making major efforts to stay under the radar — some of the horses ran with names such as “Number One Cartel” and “Corona Coronita Cartel.”
The New York Times last year reported how the Trevino brothers became fascinated by horse racing — and the financial rewards it could generate.
The winnings gave Jose Trevino the status to hire top trainers and jockeys and get Track magazine to cover his daughter's wedding, which the Times said was attended by well-known industry figures.
The U.S. government has since sold nearly all of the horses for US$9 million and is seeking the forfeiture of a ranch in Oklahoma plus other assets.
Five horses — including Mr. Piloto and Tempting Dash which won the Dash for Cash race in Texas in 2009 — and four embryos have not yet been sold.
Jose Trevino was among four men convicted in May by a federal court in Texas of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Prosecutors hope to arrest at least seven other defendants, including his brother.
“This prosecution and the sentences imposed today should send a clear message to those who would attempt to import their brand of corruption and violence into the United States,” United States Attorney Robert Pitman said.
“We will find you, we will prosecute you and we will seek the most severe consequences the law allows.”
The tough sentences handed down by a federal judge in Austin, Texas send a “clear message to those who attempt to hide their ill-gotten gains through investment in legitimate businesses,” said Richard Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation unit.
“All financial transactions leave a trail and we have the unique expertise to follow those leads,” Weber said in a statement.
The Zetas are believed to have come into existence in the 1990s, founded by deserters from the Mexican special forces hired as hitmen for the powerful Gulf cartel, by its then-boss Osiel Cardenas Guillen.
Their name comes from the word “zeta” — Spanish for the letter z — a code term used by top army commanders.
The original group trained new members and became known for its ruthlessness, particularly for beheading their victims.
They later split from the Gulf cartel, after Cardenas Guillen was jailed in the United States, sparking bloody Mexican turf wars as they set up their own trafficking operations.