Mexico drug gang 'used US horse racing as front'

Jose Trevino Morales with horseracing trophy - photo September 2010 Jose Trevino is said to have spent huge amounts of money on racehorses

US officials say they have dismantled a major money-laundering ring used by Mexico's Zetas drug gang to funnel drug proceeds through American horse racing.

Police raided a number of locations including a racetrack in New Mexico.

Among several people arrested was Jose Trevino, a brother of a suspected Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino, who has been indicted but remains at large.

US authorities say the case shows how Mexican gangs are able to infiltrate legitimate American businesses.

Jose Trevino and his wife, Zulema, were arrested at their stables near Lexington, south of Oklahoma City.

Federal agents also made arrests in California and Texas, as well as the Ruidoso Downs racetrack in New Mexico.

A total of 14 people have been indicted with money-laundering.

Prosecutors say Miguel Angel and Jose, along with another brother Oscar Omar, used drugs money to buy American quarter horses, which race over short distances.

Top jockeys

Some of the horses carried names with drug references, such as Corona Coronita Cartel and Number One Cartel.

The company that allegedly acted as a front, Tremor Enterprises, was quite successful with some of its horses winning important races in the US.

Law enforcement personnel take a horse away from the stable area at Ruidoso Downs Racetrack Some of the horses owned by the Trevinos won important races

And success on the track meant that Jose Trevino was able to hire top trainers and jockeys, the New York Times reported.

"This case highlights the capacity of Mexican drug gangs "to establish footholds in legitimate US industries," said Richard Weber, chief of the US Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation division.

"This attack on the Zetas' most profitable money laundering schemes is an essential front in the war on drugs and will financially disrupt this violent international criminal organisation."

The Zetas are one of the most powerful and ruthless drug cartels in Mexico.

They were formed by deserters from the Mexican special forces and originally worked as hitmen for the Gulf Cartel.

Miguel Angel Trevino, known as "Z40", is believed to be a key figure in the organisation.

He and Oscar Omar Trevino are thought to be in Mexico.

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