Oklahoma horse rancher linked to Mexican drug cartel was bricklayer just three years ago

Jose Trevino Morales' quarter-horse operation in Lexington is linked to Mexico's notorious Zetas drug cartel, run by his two brothers.
by Nolan Clay Published: June 17, 2012
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The FBI agent reported one horse owner, Ramiro Villarreal, 38, was found dead in his car in 2011 after he got upset over being forced to give up a winning horse, Tempting Dash, to the brothers.

The New York Times last week reported Villarreal's car was found incinerated on March 10, 2011, outside Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. The Times reported authorities took DNA samples from the ashes to identify his remains.

Jose Trevino listed Tempting Dash as his horse when he applied for a racehorse owner license in Oklahoma in January 2010. Jose Trevino reported to the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission that he was born in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, but was a U.S. citizen.

The grand jury reported the Trevino brothers also would use straw purchasers to buy the horse to disguise the true ownership.

The FBI began investigating after a source in Mexico reported the brothers in the Zetas drug cartel spent more than $1 million to purchase two quarter horses in January 2010 at the Heritage Place Auction House in Oklahoma City.

The FBI agent reported the Trevino brothers' most successful quarter horse is Mr. Piloto, which won $1 million in the All American Futurity at the racetrack in Ruidoso Downs, N.M., in 2010. Mr. Piloto was a long shot in the 440-yard race and won by a nose.

A second informant claimed Miguel and Omar Trevino watched the race on the Internet, the FBI agent reported in the court affidavit.

“At this race, ‘40' stated that he and his associates paid approximately $10,000 to the gatekeepers to hold back the horses competing against Mr. Piloto. When Mr. Piloto won, ‘40' stated that his brother Jose Trevino used to be a bricklayer and would wake up at 5 a.m. every day,” the agent reported.

The agent also reported that a third informant claimed Jose Trevino used pills that cost $1,000 each to dope his racehorses, including Mr. Piloto.

A judge has ordered employees of the defendants to continue to care for the more than 400 quarter horses. Prosecutors told the judge Friday that federal agents had to seize 12 horses Thursday in New Mexico after a horse trainer abandoned them.

Prosecutors told the judge the government is monitoring the situation at the ranch near Lexington.

“The vast majority of the horses ... are in Lexington,” prosecutors reported. “If federal agents believe that the well-being of the Oklahoma horses is in jeopardy, it will be seeking permission from the court to take the appropriate action to safeguard the horses.”


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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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