The brother of a top Mexican drug lord was arrested Tuesday. Jose Trevino Morales, his wife, and several other people were arrested at his horse ranch in Oklahoma. They were charged with laundering millions in drug cartel money through a horse breeding and racing operation.
Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with New York Times reporter Ginger Thompson. She has been investigating the Trevino brothers’ horse racing business.
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Lisa Mullins: The brother of a top Mexican drug lord was arrested yesterday here in the U.S. Jose Trevino Morales, his wife, and several other people were all arrested at a horse ranch in Oklahoma. They were charged with laundering millions of dollars in drug cartel money through a horse breeding and racing operation. Trevino is the brother of the Zetas cartel leader Miguel Angel Travino who is one of the most feared men in Mexico. New York Times reporter Ginger Thompson has been investigating the Trevino brothers’ horse racing business. Her story is in Times. Ginger, who is the man who was arrested yesterday, one of those arrested, Jose Trevino Morales?
Ginger Thompson: Jose Trevino is a guy who described himself as a brick mason and told people that he had made his money in the construction business in Dallas until his brothers convinced him to get into the horse business.
Mullins: Okay. Tell us about this one particular brother, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales.
Thompson: Well, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales is known as Zeta Cuarenta or Z40. He is now the second in command of the Zetas cartel and the Zetas cartel is known primarily for its brutality and its abilities to expand almost like an invasion force into territories across Mexico. It is one of the most brutal cartels and so widely feared that people in its territory along the south Texas border are even reluctant to say the name Zeta.
Mullins: So how did it get to be that these stables in Oklahoma became known as the Zeta stables and what’s the significance of that?
Thompson: His property in Oklahoma was a ranch that Jose Trevino had recently established but indeed the Zetas had stables in Ruidoso New Mexico that were considered Zetas stables. They had stables at Los Alamedos race track. This cartel, rather than sort of keeping a profile, did almost the opposite. It was these Zeta leaders were buying some of the biggest horses in quarter horse racing and they had won all of the biggest races in quarter horse racing including the All American Futurity which is kind of the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing.
Mullins: So that’s a pretty brazen way to do business. Why did they work so openly? I mean why not be more discreet? Unless they thought that their business was impenetrable some how.
Thompson: I think that their passion of horses got the better of them. I mean the fact is the Zetas and these Trevino brothers in particular are known for being very passionate about quarter horses. They’ve been racing horses for years now. It’s a very big sport in the northern Mexico border area and horses are considered an important status symbol. So when they moved into American quarter horse racing they couldn’t help themselves. They wanted to buy big horses and they wanted to win. The Trevino brothers in the United States were becoming a very prominent, very successful quarter horse family. In Mexico however the Trevino brother were associated with some of the most violent, vicious, horrible crimes in recent Mexican history.
Mullins: Given that kind of backdrop I wonder about your own reporting on this story because the Zetas cartel has in the past targeted journalists and the cartel is known as being ruthless. Were you at all threatened that you can tell us in terms of your reporting this story?
Thompson: I was never threatened. I think a lot of the reason for that is that I didn’t make it known that I was looking specifically at Jose Trevino. I did a lot of reporting that made it appear I was looking at something other than him directly. It was complicated and it took us a lot longer to finish this story because of that. But, yes, we thought about safety at every turn and not just for my safety but really for the safety of the people who spoke to me which is why so many people in my story are unidentified. It was mostly for the sake of their safety.
Mullins: Thank you for telling us the story that appears in today’s New York Times. New York Times reporter Ginger Thompson on the Trevino brothers’ horse racing business. We’ve got a link to the story on our website, theworld.org. Thanks a lot, Ginger.
Thompson: Thank you.
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