Saturday, April 27, 2013

Zetas laundered millions through horse racing gambling in Texas

American-Statesman Staff
A former drug trafficker on Tuesday testified that he was once picked up by one of the founding leaders of the Zetas cartel and would have been killed had it not been for his knowledge of quarter horses.
Mario Alfonso Cuellar, who is serving time on narcotics charges, sat in a prison uniform as he described for jurors an elaborate scheme that allowed two other heads of the Mexican criminal organization to funnel millions of dirty dollars through the horse racing industry in the United States.
Over the four years he was forced to participate, he said, at least two businessmen involved were killed.
Nearly 20 people are implicated in the money laundering case, which went to trial this week in an Austin federal court. The two drug lords at the top — Miguel Angel Treviño Morales and Oscar Omar Treviño Morales — remain on the loose, authorities say, and allegations have since centered on their brother, Jose Treviño Morales, a bricklayer and father of four who owned one of the most prominent companies in horse racing.
Also on trial are Mexican businessman Francisco Colorado Cessa, professional horse trainers Fernando Solis Garcia and Eusevio Maldonado Huitron, and Huitron’s brother, Jesus Huitron.
Prosecutors will have to prove the defendants knew they were using illicit proceeds to buy, train and breed American quarter horses across the Southwest.
In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Gardner said the Zetas have emerged as a transnational enterprise under the control of Miguel Angel Treviño Morales that stretches deep into South America, making money through drug sales, extortion, kidnapping and murder. Their elaborate network, Gardner said, ran narcotics from Latin America to as far north as Chicago and then transported the money back to Mexico in large sums of cash.
Those profits would again be sent “north to be invested into legitimate business in the United States,” Garner said. The funds were slowly poured into the accounts of the defendants via wire transfers, personal checks and other transactions, and the payments were structured to be less than $10,000 each to avoid reporting requirements of the Internal Revenue Service, he said.
Prosecutors say Colorado used the money to buy quarter horses from champion lineages at auctions and from sellers, while Eusevio “Chevo” Maldonado Huitron, who lives in East Austin and owns property in Bastrop County, was paid to train them. The Huitrons also laundered money through their other companies, prosecutors said.
Once the horses became profitable, prosecutors allege, they went to Jose Treviño Morales and his wife, Zulema Treviño, who operated Tremor Enterprises LLC in Oklahoma and owned Zule Farms, a ranch with breeding and training facilities.
But defense attorneys said the men implicated were honorable and hardworking businessmen with a passion for horses.
Jose Treviño Morales was not a gun-toting drug dealer, said his attorney, David Finn. The government had failed to catch his relatives — men with huge bounties on their heads — and had instead settled on prosecuting “low-hanging fruit,” he said.
“His brothers are not here right now,” Finn said. “His brothers are not on trial.”

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