Five alleged cartel associates licensed by Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission

Racetrack officials say horse owners are subjected to “vigorous” background checks before being issued a license. It appears Jose Trevino Morales, whose brother is head of the infamous Los Zetas cartel in Mexico, slipped through the cracks. He wasn't the only one, either.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: June 13, 2012 at 9:43 pm •  Published: June 13, 2012
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A Remington Park racetrack official says horse owners are subjected to “vigorous” background checks before being issued a license in Oklahoma.

It appears Jose Trevino Morales, whose brother is a leader of an infamous drug cartel in Mexico, slipped through the cracks.

Jose Trevino, his wife and 13 others were indicted May 30 by a federal grand jury in Texas, although court documents weren't unsealed until Tuesday. He is accused of using a quarter horse breeding and racing operation to launder $20 million in drug money, starting in 2008.

A ranch in Lexington, called Zule Farms, had become the center of the breeding and racing operation, court records show.

Four other men who were indicted last month along with Jose Trevino also are licensed by the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission.

Two of the men are described as owners, one as a registered agent and one as a trainer. Except for one, all had been licensed in other states, including Texas, Louisiana, California and New Mexico.

Required paperwork

Lisa Hanson, the racing commission's license supervisor, said all applicants are required to fill out paperwork that asks for a Social Security number, date of birth and other pertinent information. She said fingerprints, which are sent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI to check for criminal history, are also taken from those seeking a license.

“We don't fingerprint minors, or if they're disabled or anything, but we do fingerprints,” Hanson said, adding that she wasn't sure what the law enforcement agencies do with the documents and other items once they receive them.

Court records describe Jose Trevino as the older brother of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, second-in-command of Los Zetas, an organization well-known for heinous, murderous acts in Mexico's borderland wars. The four men with state-issued licenses face the same serious charges as Jose Trevino and are linked to the same drug trafficking organization.

Scott Wells, general manager of Remington Park, said Oklahoma racetracks rely on the racing commission to vet owners, jockeys and trainers.

“Remington Park functions as a host facility and by law all racing participants including owners, trainers and jockeys must undergo vigorous background checks and be licensed by Oklahoma and Texas racing commissions to race at our facility,” Wells said. “This is a matter for state and federal officials and we have and will continue to cooperate in any way we can.”

Kym Koch Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Chickasaw Nation, said no horses owned by the Trevino family were seized at racetracks owned by the tribe, including Remington Park and Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.

“Not that I'm aware of,” she said. “But our quarter horse racing season ended Memorial Day.”

Daryl Fields, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Antonio, said Jose Trevino and his wife, Zulema, remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Service. He said they're expected to be taken to Texas for detention hearing, “but I don't expect anything to happen for some time.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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