Four Men Found Guilty in Zetas Money Laundering Trial

Four men were convicted at a trial involving a money-laundering scheme by the Los Zetas drug gang that included buying, training, breeding and racing horses in the U.S., the Justice Department said.

Each of the men was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, a crime punishable by as long as 20 years in prison, U.S. Attorney Robert L. Pitman in San Antonio, said yesterday in a statement. The jury trial was held in Austin, the Texas state capital.

One of the men convicted, Jose Trevino Morales, 46, is the brother of alleged Los Zetas leaders Miguel Trevino Morales and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, Pitman said in the statement.

“This trial documented the violence, brutality and corruption generated by Mexican drug cartels, in this case the particularly ruthless Los Zetas,” Pitman said.

“The government was able to show how the corrupting influence of the drug cartels has extended into the United States with cartel bosses using an otherwise legitimate domestic industry to launder proceeds from drug trafficking and other crimes.”

An indictment against all three of brothers and 11 other people was unsealed last year.

Funneling Cash

Beginning in 2008, Miguel and Oscar Trevino Morales funneled cash from illegal drug sales to Jose Trevino-Morales and his wife to buy, train, breed and race the horses, using front companies to hide the cartel’s ownership, the government said. The indictment identified transactions valued at millions of dollars in New Mexico, Oklahoma, California and Texas.

The now-convicted brother, Jose Trevino Morales, was a resident of Balch Springs, Texas, according to the U.S. Also found guilty in the 12-day trial were Mexican businessman Francisco Colorado Cessa, 52, horse trainer and purchasing agent Fernando Solis Garcia, 30, and trainer Eusevio Maldonado Huitron, 49.

Trainer Jesus Maldonado Huitron of Austin was acquitted, prosecutors said. The brother of Eusevio, he had been added to a revised indictment in December.

No sentencing date has been set for the men found guilty, according to Pitman.

‘Bitter Disappointment’

“It was a bitter disappointment,” Solis Garcia’s lawyer, Guy Womack, said in a phone interview. “I don’t think the evidence was there.”

Even if they believed Jose Trevino Morales and Colorado Cessa were in some way dealing with the Zetas, Womack said of the jury, there’s no way that either of those men would have revealed that to his client.

“It was certainly guilt by association,” Womack said. He said he will appeal the verdict.

Mike DeGeurin, a lawyer for Colorado Cessa, said his client “is a good man.”

“This conviction is tragic,” DeGeurin said in an e-mail. “He is loved by all who know him. His love for horses put him in the circumstances that included him in this technical money laundering conspiracy trial.”

More than 400 quarter horses seized in June as part of the money-laundering operation have been sold for about $9 million, Pitman said.

The government still has nine quarter horses, Pittman said, including Mr. Piloto, the 2010 $1 million All American Futurity Winner -- billed as the World’s Richest Quarter-horse Race -- in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, and Tempting Dash, which won the Lone Star Park race track Dash for Cash in October 2009.

Seven of the defendants, including Miguel Trevino Morales and Oscar Trevino Morales, remain at large, Pitman said. Five people, including Jose Trevino Morales’ wife and daughter, have entered guilty pleas and await sentencing.

The case is U.S. v. Morales, 12-cr-00210, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio).

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