It was in 2011, when a particular quarter horse farm in Oklahoma was booming with business. This as the recession was taking a toll on the usually lucrative industry.
The farm's owner, Jose Trevino Morales, had only recently broken into the quarter horse scene and was making waves with his million dollar prize winnings, and record breaking bids at auction houses. But according to federal investigators, what seemed like a ranch filled with the top mares was actually a front for a multimillion dollar money laundering scheme, orchestrated by one of the most feared and dangerous Mexican drug cartels—Los Zetas.
The cartel is one of the most feared in all of Mexico, according to authorities. Its calling card includes dismemberments of rivals while they were still alive, and beheadings, authorities say.
But there was another twist, according to authorities. The cartel was originally trained by the Mexican military to combat the drug trade, but the cartel eventually turned sides. "They are often bribed to collaborate, but this was the first case of all the originators of a particular cartel leaving the military for the cartel," FBI Special Agent Scott Lawson said.
Trevino Morales was a U.S. citizen with a clean record. He was known throughout the community as a bricklayer, reportedly making only $20,000 a year who supposedly had come into a large amount of money and was spending it in the quarter horse industry. But while he may have had a clean slate in the U.S., his infamous brothers were on the run in Mexico, investigators say. His older brothers are Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Omar Trevino Morales—known as "40" and "42" respectively—leaders of Los Zetas.
Nineteen people have been indicted in a money laundering case, with one acquitted due to cooperation. Ten of the 19 have been convicted, and some of them recently were sentenced. This is the first time authorities have been able to speak about the case.
Trevino Morales was sentenced in September 2013, and is serving a 20-year sentence. His attorney could not be reached for comment. His two older brothers remain incarcerated in Mexico but are still wanted by U.S. authorities.