A powerful Mexican drug cartel — infamous for beheadings and other ruthless acts — used millions of dollars from illegal drug sales to finance a horse racing operation based out of a ranch in southern Oklahoma, federal authorities allege.
Federal agents Tuesday morning raided the quarter horse ranch, Zule Farms, near Lexington, and arrested ranch owner Jose Trevino Morales, 45, and his wife, Zulema Trevino, 38.
A federal grand jury in Texas indicted them and 13 others May 30 on a money-laundering conspiracy charge. The indictment was partially unsealed Tuesday.
Jose Trevino was identified in the indictment as the older brother of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, one of the top two leaders of Los Zetas drug cartel, and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, another leader of cartel.
“It was the object of the conspiracy to launder U.S. currency gained from the sale of illegal controlled substances by Los Zetas to purchase, breed, train and race quarter horses in the United States and Mexico,” the grand jury alleged in the indictment.
“The Los Zetas Drug Cartel is a powerful drug organization operating out of Mexico which funnels thousands of kilos of cocaine and other narcotics into the United States each year,” grand jurors alleged. “The huge-scale drug trafficking of this organization generates multimillion dollar revenues. ... Miguel and Oscar Trevino ... would direct portions of the bulk cash derived from the sale of illegal narcotics to their brother ... and his wife ... for the purchase, training, breeding and racing of quarter horses in the United States.
“Jose Trevino and his wife ... Zulema Trevino, created Tremor Enterprises LLC, 66 Land LLC and Zule Farms LLC ... for the purpose of promoting the money-laundering activities,” the grand jury alleged.
The indictment calls Tremor Enterprises LLC, 66 Land LLC and Zule Farms “front companies.”
New Mexico raid
Agents also raided the famed Ruidoso Downs racetrack in New Mexico. Five other arrests were made Tuesday in the case, in Los Angeles, Ruidoso, N.M., and Austin, Texas.
Agents did not apprehend Miguel Trevino and Oscar Trevino, who are believed to be in Mexico.
“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,” said Richard Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service criminal investigations.