|Associated Press / Brett Deering|
Oklahoma horse ranch in cartel case raised suspicions.
By Ted H. Smith
Red Dirt Report, contributing writer
Posted: June 18, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY – Last Thursday, an article in The Oklahoman by reporter Andrew Knittle which concerned the arrest of Jose Trevino, his wife and 13 other associates interested me more for what was not covered.
In the story, headlined “Five alleged cartel associates licensed by Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission,” a Remington Park racetrack official (not named) was quoted “that horse owners are subjected to (vigorous) background checks before being issued a license in Oklahoma.” The paper goes on to say, “It appears Jose Trevino Morales, whose brother is a leader of an infamous drug cartel in Mexico, slipped through the cracks.”
Lisa Hanson, the racing commission’s license supervisor said all applicants are required to fill out paperwork that ask for a Social Security number, date of birth and other pertinent information. She said fingerprints, which are sent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and to the FBI to check for criminal history, are also taken from those seeking a license. She added later, ”that she was not sure what the law enforcement agencies do with the documents and other items once the receive them.”
The article also said: “Sources near the Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino said the cartel’s link to Jose Trevino’s horse racing operation was an open secret.”
The article also mentioned that three of the men were also licensed in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and California.
The part of the story that most interested me were the questions that were not asked or answered. That’s a big part of this whole story – for an investigation that went on for quite some time, why don’t we know more of the nuts and bolts related to this story. Too many things seem, umm, vague.
For instance, what is the purpose of the racing commission’s licensing process? If all it was was just a paperwork operation, could it not be done by mail? Lisa Hanson of the state’s racing commission did not indicate that the commission looks at any of this paperwork and she said she didn’t know what happened to it when it was sent to the OSBI and FBI. Again, what is the responsibility when it comes to licensing? It does not appear from the information in The Oklahoman story that horse owners are subjected to a “vigorous” background check, as implied by the Remington Park race track official.
So, is anyone, anywhere in the application process really looking at the forms and running the fingerprints against a database or running an in-depth association check on horse owners and operators? It certainly doesn’t appear to be the case when it is reported that the association with the cartel was an open secret in Ruidoso.
Another thing that was very interesting to me was the question of how long this investigation has been going on. When did they buy the Lexington property? When was the investigation that resulted in the grand jury indictments of May 30, 2012 started?
The reason this is of great interest is the way all of the assets of this indicted horse operation will be split up. It is my belief that all of the assets of Jose Trevino Morales’ operation will be split up between all of the law enforcement organizations that were involved in the investigation and arrest. There was no information in the article about the estimated value of the property. However, we should note in the accompanying Associated Press story by Tim Talley and Juan Carlos Llorca that one of the horses seized had won a $1 million prize in 2010.
And here’s my mind takes me at this point. It goes without saying that when you see the culmination of a drug investigation taking three or four years and the authorities ultimately seizing multiple millions as result of said investigation that the “time issue” is of a deliberate nature.
The thought creeps into my simple mind that these officials may be taking their time to investigate the operation to give the operators more time to make the bust really worthwhile financially.
I know there would never be an official with any of the associated agencies that would ever do such a thing, but the thought that they might be swayed by multiple millions coming into their agency might affect them.
Ted H. Smith lives in Norman, Oklahoma and is a regular contributor to Red Dirt Report.
EDITOR'S NOTE* We did confirm that those in the Hispanic immigrant community who were aware of the Zeta-connected horse operation were afraid to speak out for fear of being murdered, not unlike what happens in communities throughout Mexico.
And since Ted Smith wrote this article, The Oklahoman revealed that Trevino "was working as a bricklayer in Texas" just three years ago before starting the Lexington horse operation. One wonders how thorough of a background check was conducted.
Copyright 2012 Red Dirt Report