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The brother of a Mexican drug cartel boss was among three men handed lengthy US prison sentences Thursday for laundering money in a horse racing scheme, prosecutors said.
Jose Trevino Morales, 46, was jailed for 20 years for his role in using millions in illegal drug money to buy, train and race quarter horses in the United States.
His brother, Miguel Trevino Morales, of the Los Zetas cartel, was captured by Mexican authorities in July, in a major boost for President Enrique Pena Nieto who took office in December last year pledging to reduce a wave of drug-related murders that has left 70,000 people dead since 2006.
Jose Trevino and his wife Zulema Trevino were among seven people arrested in the United States last year in a raid which also saw more than 400 horses seized.
The quarter horse racing front appeared to be more than simply a shell corporation. Several of the horses had won major races, including Mr. Piloto, a $1 million All American Futurity winner at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day 2010.
Nor were the accused making major efforts to stay under the radar -- some of the horses ran with names like Number One Cartel and Corona Coronita Cartel.
The US government has since sold nearly all of the horses for $9 million and is seeking the forfeiture of an Oklahoma ranch along with other assets.
Five horses -- including Mr. Piloto and Tempting Dash which won the Dash for Cash race in Texas in 2009 -- and four embryos have not yet been sold.
Jose Trevino was among four men convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering by a federal court in Texas in May. Prosecutors hope to arrest at least seven other defendants, including his brother.
"This prosecution and the sentences imposed today should send a clear message to those who would attempt to import their brand of corruption and violence into the United States," United States Attorney Robert Pitman said.
"We will find you, we will prosecute you and we will seek the most severe consequences the law allows."