Bank Accounts Figure in Drug Probe

According to the FBI, the Zetas turned to the U.S. horse industry in 2009 as a money-laundering strategy. Many people bid on horses for the cartel, and ownership was transferred to Jose Trevino Morales, often at “no or minimal purchase price,” the FBI agent said. The maneuver allowed Mr. Morales to show “large, apparently legitimate profits.”

Jose Trevino Morales, at left, helps lead Mr Polito after the quarter horse won the All American Futurity in 2010. The firm Mr. Morales operates is alleged by the FBI to be a front for a Mexican drug cartel.

FBI Says Mexican Cartel Funneled Money Through Bank to Horse-Racing Firm.

A Mexican cocaine-trafficking cartel used accounts at Bank of America Corp. to hide money and invest illegal drug-trade proceeds in U.S. racehorses, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

The alleged ties between the violent drug gang known as Los Zetas and the second-largest U.S. bank by assets were described in a 35-page affidavit filed in federal court in Texas last month. According to an FBI agent, a horse-buying and training business created to launder drug money had accounts at the Charlotte, N.C., bank.

A U.S. citizen who is the brother of a top Zetas leader and allegedly served as the front man for the drug cartel’s horse operation moved money in and out of one of these Bank of America accounts and a separate personal Bank of America account, the FBI said in the court filing.

The FBI agent’s sworn statement describes roughly a dozen transactions since December 2009 in which more than $1.5 million was deposited or withdrawn from two accounts at the bank.

Bank of America hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing and is cooperating with authorities in the case, according to people familiar with the case.

During a roughly two-year period, according to the FBI agent, the Zetas allegedly funneled about $1 million a month into the purchase of quarter horses, which specialize in sprinting short distances.


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