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Seven arrested in alleged Mexican cartel scheme to launder money in horse racing

By Michael Martinez, CNN
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed June 13, 2012
Tempting Dash is among the horses used in an alleged laundering operation, investigators say.
Tempting Dash is among the horses used in an alleged laundering operation, investigators say.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The brother of a Mexican cartel leader is among seven people arrested
  • The leader of Los Zetas cartel and six others indicted are still at large
  • Los Zetas allegedly used fronts to hide horse ownership
  • At least a couple of the cartel's horses were winners at the track

(CNN) -- Seven members of Mexico's Zetas cartel were arrested Tuesday after a U.S. indictment accused a total of 14 cartel members of laundering drug money through the breeding and racing of American quarter horses in the United States, authorities said.

Los Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, 38, and his two brothers were named in the federal indictment, and brother Jose Trevino Morales, 45, and his wife, 38-year-old Zulema Trevino, were among the seven arrested, federal authorities said.

The 14 defendants were charged with a conspiracy using horse racing and breeding to launder the cartel's drug money, authorities said.

"The allegations in this indictment, if proven, would document yet another example of the corrupting influence of Mexican drug cartels within the United States, facilitated by the enormous profits generated by the illicit drug trade," U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas said in a statement.

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Since 2008, cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and brother Oscar Omar Trevino Morales directed millions of dollars in drug money to brother Jose and his wife for buying, training, breeding and racing quarter horses in New Mexico, Oklahoma, California and Texas, authorities said. Jose Trevino, his wife and others disguised the ownership of the horses through the use of "front" companies, authorities said.

Among the horses that were part of the alleged laundering operations were Tempting Dash, winner of the Dash for Cash at Lone Star Park racetrack in Grand Prairie, Texas, on October 24, 2009, and Mr. Piloto, winner of the $1 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day 2010 in Ruidoso, New Mexico, authorities said.

Federal authorities are seeking forfeiture of those race horses and others named Dashin Follies, Coronita Cartel and Separate Fire -- as well as property in Lexington, Oklahoma, and Bastrop County, Texas, and money in three bank accounts, officials said.

The indictment alleges the horse racing and breeding conspiracy raised $20 million, and authorities are seeking a monetary judgment in that amount, officials said.

The Los Zetas cartel, headquartered in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, directly across the border from Laredo, Texas, is Mexico's largest drug cartel in terms of territory and has operations in 11 Mexican states, the indictment said.

The cartel sends thousands of kilograms of cocaine and other drugs annually to the United States, generating many millions of dollars, the indictment said.

"This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate U.S. industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system," Richard Weber, chief of IRS Criminal Investigation, said in a statement.

The five other people arrested Tuesday are Fernando Solis Garcia, 29, in Ruidoso; 26-year-old Carlos Miguel Nayen Borbolla, 32-year-old Adan Farias and 28-year-old Felipe Alejandro Quintero in Los Angeles; and Eusevio Maldonado Huitron, 48, in Austin, Texas, authorities said.

Cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and brother Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, 36, are believed to be in Mexico, authorities said.

The five others indicted who haven't been arrested as of Tuesday are Raul Ramirez, 20, of El Paso, Texas; Francisco Antonio Colorado Cessa, 51, of Veracruz, Mexico; Victor Manuel Lopez, 31, of Nuevo Laredo; and Sergio Rogelio Guerrero Rincon, 40, and Luis Gerardo Aguirre, 35, both of Mexico, authorities said.

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