Updated on 06/15/2012 1:26PM

Top Quarter Horse owners indicted in connection with Mexican drug cartel


Three horses who qualified last weekend for the $1,041,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity at Los Alamitos on June 24 have been seized by federal officials after their owners were arrested on Tuesday on money laundering charges involving a notorious Mexican drug cartel that used funds to allegedly purchase Quarter Horses in the United States.

Horses belonging to Tremor Enterprises, operated by Jose Trevino Morales and members of his family, and Bonanza Racing Stables, operated by Fernando Solis Garcia, have been ordered seized, according to a 25-page indictment issued by the FBI.
Morales, 45, his wife, Zulema, 38, and Garcia, 29, were among seven of the 14 individuals arrested on Tuesday in California, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, the FBI said.

FBI officials declined comment on Tuesday regarding how many other horses were seized at Los Alamitos, Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, and at farms in Oklahoma and Texas. Jose Antonio Flores, who trains two of the three affected qualifiers for the Ed Burke Million Futurity – Mr Ease Cartel and Super Long Straw – said the horses were taken out of Los Alamitos on Tuesday.

“It’s really a shame,” Flores said on Wednesday.

The arrests stemmed from a federal grand jury indictment issued in Texas in May and unsealed on Tuesday. The case was first reported online on Tuesday by the New York Times.

Two prominent California-based Quarter Horse trainers – Adan Farias, 32, and Felipe Alejandro Quintero, 28 – were also arrested in Los Angeles on Tuesday and remain in federal custody in connection with the money laundering case, the FBI said.

Quintero trains the Bonanza-owned Streak Hitter, who qualified for the Ed Burke final in Sunday’s time trials. Bonanza Racing is also listed as owner of Super Long Straw, another Burke qualifier. Tremor is listed as owner of Burke qualifier Mr Ease Cartel, who was third in the Kindergarten Futurity at Los Alamitos on May 20.

The arrests and indictments are part of a multi-year investigation by the government into money laundering activities of the Los Zetas drug cartel. The indictment stated that Jose Trevino Morales and his brothers, Los Zetas leaders Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, 38, and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, 36, used revenue from drug sales to purchase Quarter Horses in the United States since 2008.

Garcia’s Bonanza Racing was reported in the indictment to be a front for the money laundering activities of Los Zetas “used to conceal and disguise the ownership of Quarter Horses.”

The Tremor stable has included such notable runners as Tempting Dash, the winner of the 2009 Dash For Cash and Texas Classic futurities at Lone Star Park; Mr Piloto, the winner of the All American Futurity for trainer Quintero at Ruidoso Downs in 2010; and the filly Separate Fire, the winner of the 2011 Kindergarten and Ed Burke Million futurities at Los Alamitos.

Mr Piloto stood at stud this year at Jose Trevino’s Zule Farm in Lexington, Okla. Tempting Dash stood at a farm in Elgin, Texas.
According to the FBI’s indictment, the Zule farm property has been ordered seized. Separate Fire was reportedly on that farm when it was seized.

The Tremor and Bonanza breeding and racing stables are believed to own approximately 500 Quarter Horses of all ages, according to a person familiar with their operations.

Farias, who has not trained since last fall because of a series of positive tests for a banned muscle builder at Los Alamitos, and Quintero, who had horses in five trials on Sunday, were named in the indictment for their involvement in money laundering practices.

The indictment states that Quintero “advised members and associates of Los Zetas on Quarter Horse purchases, training and racing,” and said that Farias met with Miguel Trevino “and others to discuss the laundering of proceeds via the Quarter Horse industry.”

“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 threats that money laundering causes to our financial system,” Richard Weber, chief of IRS criminal investigation, said in a statement released by the FBI.
The Los Zetas cartel is based in the northern city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, across from Laredo, Texas, and has been heavily involved in a bloody drug war in recent years that has claimed more than 50,000 lives in that country, according to reports.

It was unclear on Wednesday how the seizure of the Tremor and Bonanza horses would affect the Ed Burke Million Futurity. In one scenario, only the seven remaining qualifiers will start. In another situation, the 11th through 13th fastest qualifiers would join the field.

Officials with the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Racing Association, which administers the race, and Los Alamitos officials met on Wednesday. Track officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.