WASHINGTON — The unlikeliest of marriages — the most violent Mexican drug cartel and the world of U.S. quarter horse racing — ended with the arrest Tuesday of one of the top men in the Los Zetas drug trafficking ring after U.S. officials began suspecting an uncanny run of good fortune at the track and the laundering of millions of dollars in drug proceeds.
Arrested were Jose Trevino Morales, his wife, and five associates. They were taken into U.S. custody after scores of FBI agents in all-terrain vehicles and helicopters raided horse stables and ranches near Ruidoso, N.M., and Lexington, Okla.
Working on a tip from more than two years ago, law enforcement officials learned that the Zetas were laundering up to $1 million a month through the quarter horse industry. In federal charges unsealed in Texas, Trevino and the others were indicted for laundering drug profits by “purchasing, training, breeding and racing American quarter horses.”
The two-state takedown, coming as cartel violence has spread across northern Mexico and, U.S. officials worry, is creeping over the border, marks the first time that a cartel has taken such a brazen step in not only secreting its funds in a U.S. enterprise, but more uniquely, investing in one of this country’s most storied traditions.