Mexico Drug Cartel Funneled Money through Bank of America, FBI Says

A notoriously violent cocaine-trafficking cartel funneled drug money through accounts at Bank of America to purchase race horses in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Los Zetas routed roughly $1 million per month for two years through Bank of America accounts, FBI Special Agent Jason Preece said in an affidavit filed June 11. The money allegedly flowed through a personal and business account owned by José Trevino Morales, the brother of two of the drug gang’s top leaders—Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Omar Trevino Morales.

José Trevino Morales has pled not guilty to money laundering charges.

Bank of America is not accused of wrongdoing. The second-largest U.S. bank is cooperating with the authorities, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The Los Zetas leaders set up José Trevino as the front man for the alleged money laundering operation, according to the filing, sending him to Texas to establish Tremor Enterprises, LLC. The company bought quarter horses, a type of horse known for its skill at sprinting, according to the Journal.

One of the horses allegedly financed with the Zetas’ cocaine profits, Mr. Piloto, won the $1 million first-place prize at the All American Futurity race at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico—one of the sport’s most important races, according to the Journal.

The FBI bases its case against the Trevino brothers on bank records, state racing commission records, surveillance, border crossing records and other sources, the affidavit says.

Preece filed the affidavit to a request a warrant to search José Trevino’s property for records documenting the suspected laundering of drug money through purchases of horses.

It wouldn’t be the first time a major U.S. bank has been put under scrutiny over its relations with Mexico’s drug cartels. In 2010, Wells Fargo settled a case brought by the Justice Department alleging its bank controls failed to detect money laundering. The settlement cost the bank $160 million.

Bank of America defended the safeguards it has set up against money launderers.

“We have strong anti-money-laundering procedures and work closely with the authorities when suspicious activity is discovered,” Larry Di Rita, a Bank of America spokesman, told Bloomberg News.

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