NORMAN — Federal authorities on Tuesday arrested two in Lexington in connection with a transnational money laundering scheme.
In addition to the Lexington arrests of Jose Trevino-Morales, 45, and his wife, Zulema Trevino, 38, authorities also arrested an additional five of the 14 indicted in the scheme.
Those arrested on Tuesday remain in federal custody. Another seven defendants are fugitives, said FBI San Antonio media coordinator Erik Vasys.
Some of those defendants are thought to be in Mexico.
A federal grand jury in the Western District of Texas returned an indictment charging the 14 defendants in connection with a conspiracy to launder Los Zetas drug distribution proceeds by purchasing, training, breeding and racing American quarter horses in the United States.
According to the indictment, Los Zetas is a powerful drug cartel in Mexico that generates multimillion-dollar revenues from drug sales.
The indictment, returned on May 30 and unsealed Tuesday, charges the defendants with one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
“The allegations in this indictment, if proven, would document yet another example of the corrupting influence of Mexican drug cartels within the United States, facilitated by the enormous profits generated by the illicit drug trade,” said United States Attorney Robert Pitman.
The indictment identifies millions of dollars worth of transactions since 2008 in New Mexico, Oklahoma, California and Texas involving a large number of quarter horses.
Jose Trevino-Morales, Zulema Trevino and others allegedly used front companies to conceal and disguise the true ownership of the quarter horses.
“This investigation reveals the varied attempts by Mexican drug cartels to further their criminal enterprises by any means necessary. As such, the FBI and its partners stand ready to combat all efforts by transnational criminal organizations to undermine our national security wherever and whenever they may be uncovered,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Armando Fernandez.
The indictment seeks forfeitures of horses and property as well as a monetary judgment in the amount of $20 million representing the money derived from the defendants’ alleged scheme.
“This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate U.S. industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system,” said Richard Weber, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation. “This attack on one of the Zeta’s most profitable money laundering schemes is an essential front in the war on drugs and will financially disrupt and help dismantle this violent international criminal organization.”
This continuing investigation is being conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with five other agencies.
Upon conviction, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison.