Horses are dying at Oklahoma ranch linked to Mexican drug cartel

Judge agrees to let federal government sell the almost 400 horses at a ranch in southern Oklahoma.
by Nolan Clay Published: August 6, 2012

LEXINGTON — Horses are dying from illness and the heat at an overcrowded ranch here that federal prosecutors allege was being run with drug money from a ruthless Mexican cartel.

Eleven horses have died and others have become sick and hurt since FBI agents raided Zule Farms June 12, prosecutors reported to a judge.

Because of the health issues and other concerns, the judge in Texas has agreed to let the federal government sell all of the more than 450 horses linked to the drug cartel. About 380 of the horses are at the Lexington ranch.

“There is good cause to sell these horses sooner rather than later,” U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote in an order filed Thursday in Austin, Texas.

Prosecutors had been pushing the judge for permission to let the Internal Revenue Service sell the horses.

The ranch's owner, Jose Trevino Morales, 45, and his wife, Zulema Trevino, 38, were arrested in the June 12 raid. The couple left their son, Jose Trevino Jr., in charge of the quarter horse ranch.

“It has ... been made clear that the ranch is running on a skeletal crew,” prosecutors told the judge.

Overdue for care

FBI Special Agent Scott Lawson reported that a veterinarian found that many of the horses at the Lexington ranch are overdue for hoof care and in danger of becoming lame.

“The veterinarian has also noted that some of the ... horses have wounds that need care while others suffer from persistent diarrhea,” the agent wrote. “The veterinarian, as well as other industry sources, has reported that there are too many horses on the Oklahoma ranch, given the size of the property.

“Many of the wounds are a result of this overcrowding. Specifically, horses have kicked and bitten other horses due to their close proximity,” the agent wrote. “The veterinarian reported that a number of yearlings had hairless, small lesions on their bodies, likely the result of a fungus.”

A federal grand jury in May indicted 15 people, accusing them of involvement in a money-laundering conspiracy.

In the indictment, the grand jury alleged the powerful Los Zetas drug cartel spent millions of dollars in drug money “to purchase, breed, train and race quarter horses in the United States and Mexico.”

Appeal is possible

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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