“…he had been training horses for the cartel with drug money”
After questioning the strength of the government’s case against a Central Texas horse trainer accused of conspiring to launder money with members of a brutal drug cartel, a judge in Austin on Monday ordered the trainer released from jail pending trial.
Government prosecutors, who had argued that Eusevio Maldonado Huitrón could flee the country or be at risk of violent retribution if released, initially appealed the ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Andy Austin but later dropped that appeal. Huitrón is expected to be released today, said his lawyer, José Gonzalez-Falla, an assistant federal public defender.
Austin’s ruling came at the end of a hearing that lasted parts of two days and touched on the brutal reputation of the Zetas drug cartel and whether Huitrón, 49, knew that he had been training horses for the cartel with drug money.
“All I’ve heard is that Mr. Huitrón was a trainer that was hired by” accused cartel members, Austin said from the bench. “Is there any allegation beyond that?”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Fernald referenced court documents that included allegations that Huitrón received money from the Zetas and said: “The allegation is that … Los Zetas only has blood money, and when they pay that money out to someone who knows that is blood money, then that is conspiracy to commit money laundering.”
Huitrón, who lives in Austin and trains dozens of horses at a ranch in the Bastrop County community of Dale, is one of 15 accused Zetas members or associates charged with laundering millions of dollars in drug-dealing profits through the U.S. quarter horse industry. Eight of them, including Huitrón, were arrested last week across several states, where search and seizure warrants were carried out in a coordinated federal effort.
An indictment handed up in Austin charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit money laundering, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Charged in the indictment are Zetas leaders and brothers Miguel Angel Treviño Morales and Oscar Omar Treviño Morales, who are believed to be in Mexico and have not been arrested.
The indictment and a federal search warrant affidavit said that the brothers recruited a series of straw purchasers and others to buy racing horses on their behalf and then paid for them to be trained at several locations, including Huitrón’s.
If a horse became profitable, its ownership was transferred to José Treviño Morales or various companies he controlled at low prices, allowing him to show large, apparently legitimate profits from minimal investments, a search warrant affidavit said. Prosecutors say José Treviño, a third brother, ran the operation in the United States.
Treviño was arrested in Oklahoma and will be brought to Austin to face the indictment.
At Monday’s hearing, Huitrón’s brother testified that together they came to the United States from their native Mexico in 1980 and both are resident aliens. Together they started a homebuilding business and also went into the horse business, Jessie Huitrón said. They once sold a horse for about $300,000, he said. Under questioning by Fernald, Jessie Huitrón said he had only heard of the Zetas through news reports.
Shae Cox, an El Paso woman who met Eusevio Huitrón through the horse business, described him as extremely honest.
- Bastrop County horse ranch linked to drug cartel (statesman.com)
Categories: Horse News