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FBI Says Cartel Used Bank of America to Launder Money

Bank of America Used by Drug Cartel to Launder Money
Bank of America Corp.'s headquarters building stands behind Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. Photographer: Chris Keane/Bloomberg

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- The brother of the alleged leader of a Mexican cocaine-trafficking cartel used Bank of America Corp. accounts to invest the organization’s drug proceeds in U.S. racehorses, a FBI agent said.

Jose Trevino-Morales, one of 14 people indicted by a federal grand jury in Texas on June 12, used a personal account and a business account under the name of Tremor Enterprises LLC to buy and sell horses using money generated from cocaine trafficking, extortion and bribery, Jason Preece, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a June 11 sworn statement filed in federal court in Dallas.

“The ultimate goal of this money laundering operation was to provide Jose Trevino with apparent legitimate assets purchased and maintained by illegally obtained money,” Preece said. Bank of America isn’t accused of any wrongdoing in the agent’s statement.

Details of the transactions were revealed in a probe of the Los Zetas drug cartel, which according to the filing, funnels thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the U.S. each year. Los Zetas is the biggest drug cartel in Mexico, in geographical presence, and controls 11 states in the country, generating millions of dollars of revenue, Preece said in the statement filed in a bid to gain a search warrant for Trevino’s property.

Strong Procedures

“We have strong anti-money-laundering procedures and work closely with the authorities when suspicious activity is discovered,” Larry Di Rita, a spokesman at Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America, said in a phone interview today.

The bank doesn’t comment on any specific legal and customer cases, he said.

Preece filed the statement to support his request for court permission to search Trevino’s property in Balch Springs, Texas, a Dallas suburb, where he said investigators were likely to find horse ownership records, bank statements and cellular phones used to communicate with Los Zetas.

Trevino, who earned $29,000 in 2009 from Texas Stone and Tile LLC, had expenses of $200,000 a month the following year to support his horses, according to an FBI informant who isn’t named in the filing. The drug cartel had bought at least $4.2 million worth of quarter horses, which are used in short-distance races, over a four-year period, according to the indictment.

The two most well-known horses Trevino had were Tempting Dash and Mr. Piloto, according to the filing.

Mr. Piloto won the All American Futurity race in 2010 at Ruidoso Downs Race Track, with Tremor Enterprises’ bank account being credited with $968,440 as a result, Preece said.

Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, 38, leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel, and his brother Oscar Omar Trevino Morales were also indicted by the grand jury.

The defendants are charged in the May 30 indictment with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. The crime carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Morales, A-12-cr-210-SS, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio). The application and affidavit for search warrant is 3:12-mj-255, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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