AUSTIN, Texas — A brother of two top leaders for one of the most powerful drug cartels in Mexico was convicted Thursday of buying racehorses to hide illegal drug profits.
A federal jury that deliberated for about nine hours over two days found Jose Trevino Morales, 46, guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Trevino faces up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors say his older brothers, Miguel Angel and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, are the leaders of the Zetas, a Nuevo Leon-based organization that has expanded beyond the drug trade to become the biggest criminal group in Mexico.
The verdict represents an important step in curbing the violence and corruption generated by the cartels, said U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman.
“The government was able to show how the corrupting influence of 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,” Pitman said.
Jose Trevino Morales was one of five defendants in the three-week trial, each charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Three other defendants also were found guilty. A fifth was found not guilty.
Several other defendants remain at large, including Trevino’s brothers. His wife and daughter have pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Trevino watched silently Thursday as jurors delivered their verdict and were polled to confirm it.