Zetas allegations worry NM race chief
June 21st 2012 · 1 Comment
The head of the agency that regulates horse racing in New Mexico on Wednesday said he was deeply concerned about allegations that the notorious Los Zetas drug cartel had fixed the 2010 running of the state’s most prestigious race.
“It’s very problematic if the allegations are true,” said Vince Mares, executive director of the New Mexico Racing Commission. “We do find this allegation a very serious issue.”
He was referring to an informant’s claim, made in a federal court document, that a leader of Los Zetas boasted of fixing the 2010 All American Futurity. The race, held at Ruidoso Downs Race Track and Casino, is known as the Kentucky Derby of quarter-horse racing.
Ruidoso Downs, along with locations in Texas and Oklahoma, was raided by federal agents last week as part of an investigation into alleged money laundering by Los Zetas. A federal indictment says the Nuevo Laredo-based cartel has spent $20 million on quarter-horse racing in the United States since 2008.
Among those indicted was Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, 38, whom prosectors identified as co-leader of Los Zetas. The charging document says that he and a brother, Oscar Omar Treviño Morales, 36, funneled drug money through front companies to a third brother, José Treviño Morales, 45, who ran the cartel’s U.S. horse operation.
Miguel and Oscar Treviño are believed to be hiding in Mexico, while José Treviño was arrested last week in Oklahoma. All are charged with a single count of conspiracy to launder a monetary instrument, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
An affidavit in support of one of last week’s searches says two informants watched the 2010 All American Futurity on a computer with Miguel and Oscar Treviño, apparently in Mexico. Mr Piloto, a horse belonging to José Treviño, won the race, which carried a winner’s purse of almost $1 million.
The affidavit quotes the informants as saying that while they watched the race, Miguel Treviño “stated that he and his associates paid approximately $10,000 to the gate keepers to hold back the horses competing against Mr Piloto.”
A YouTube video of the race appears to show all nine horses leaving the gate at the same time. And managers of Ruidoso Downs last week said that they had reviewed tapes from several angles and concluded the horses got a fair start.
But Mares said it’s crucial to New Mexican horse racing that the public knows races are run fairly. He said that while the FBI has the power to bring criminal charges, the Racing Commission only has the power to revoke the licenses of owners, trainers, jockeys, starters and others who work at racetracks.
Mares said his staff would contact the FBI and ask if the agency plans to investigate the allegation that the gate crew at the 2010 All American Futurity was bribed.
“If they choose not to do it, we will have to sit down and discuss it,” Mares said of a possible investigation. “The commission is very interested in this.”
Daryl Fields, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office that is handling the prosecution of the Zetas’ alleged money laundering, on Wednesday would not comment on whether federal authorities would look into alleged race fixing.
The same affidavit that contains claims of race fixing also includes a claim that Mr Piloto had been doped 15 days before he won the race. Mares said the horse was tested after the race and found to be clean, so the allegations might be impossible to investigate now.
However, the racing commission will discuss illegal doping when it meets today in Albuquerque. A New York Times exposé earlier this year said such doping is a particular problem in New Mexico’s horse-racing industry.
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