Mexican Cartel Hides Millions in Horse Races, U.S. Alleges

June 12, 2012

The New York Times on June 12, 2012 released the following:


Newcomers rarely make it into the winner’s circle at the All American Futurity, considered the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing.

Yet in September 2010, a beaming band of men waving Mexican flags and miniature piñatas swept into Ruidoso, N.M., to claim the million-dollar prize with a long-shot colt named Mr. Piloto.

Leading the revelry at the track was Mr. Piloto’s owner, José Treviño Morales, 45, a self-described brick mason who had grown up poor in Mexico. Across the border, Ramiro Villarreal, an affable associate who had helped acquire the winning colt, celebrated at a bar with friends.

As for the man who made the whole day possible, Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, he was living on the run, one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the world.

Mr. Treviño, a younger brother of José Treviño, is second in command of Mexico’s Zetas drug trafficking organization. Thin with a furrowed brow, he has become the organization’s lead enforcer — infamous for dismembering his victims while they are still alive.

The race was one of many victories for the Treviño brothers, who managed to establish a prominent horse breeding operation, Tremor Enterprises, in the United States that allowed them to launder millions of dollars in drug money, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials. The operation amounted to a foothold in the United States for one of Mexico’s most dangerous criminal networks, the officials said.

Using Miguel Ángel Treviño’s cash, José Treviño’s legal residency and Mr. Villarreal’s eye for a good horse, Tremor bought a sprawling ranch in Oklahoma and an estimated 300 stallions and mares. The Treviño brothers might have kept their operation quiet, given the criminal connection, but their passion for horses and winning apparently proved too tempting. In the short span of three years, Tremor won three of the industry’s biggest races, with prizes totaling some $2.5 million.

The business was “so far out there it’s hard to believe,” said Morris Panner, a former prosecutor who handled drug cases. “Maybe they were using some kind of perverse logic that told them they could hide in plain sight, precisely because people wouldn’t believe it or question it.”

The Justice Department moved against Tremor on Tuesday morning, dispatching several helicopters and hundreds of law enforcement agents to the company’s stables in Ruidoso and its ranch in Oklahoma. Jose Treviño and several associates were taken into custody and were charged later in the day, authorities said.

Miguel Angel Trevino and another brother, Omar, were also charged. The two remain at large in Mexico. Omar Trevino is also a high-ranking member of the Zetas and an F.B.I. affidavit filed in United States district court describes him as participating in the money laundering.

The affidavit said the Zetas funneled about $1 million a month into buying quarter horses in the United States. The authorities were tipped off to Tremor’s activities in January 2010, when the Zetas paid more than $1 million in a single day for two broodmares, the affidavit said.

The New York Times became aware of Tremor’s activities in December 2011 while reporting on the Zetas. The Times learned of the government’s investigation last month and agreed to hold this story until Tuesday morning’s arrests.

The brothers’ activities on either side of the border made for a stark contrast. One week in May began with the authorities pointing fingers at Miguel Ángel Treviño for dumping the bodies of 49 people — without heads, hands or feet — in garbage bags along a busy highway in northern Mexico. The week concluded with José Treviño fielding four Tremor horses in a prestigious race at Los Alamitos Race Course, near Los Angeles.

By then, Mr. Villarreal’s story had come to a fatal, fiery end. Not long after the 2010 victory at Ruidoso, he was detained by the Drug Enforcement Administration and reluctantly agreed to work as an informant. Five months later, his charred remains were found in a burnt-out car on the highway outside Nuevo Laredo.

The buzz around Tremor’s winnings and acquisitions began three years ago, when José Treviño bought an estimated $3 million in quarter horses, including one named Number One Cartel.

Since then he has worked with breeders, trainers and brokers considered pillars of the business. Tremor Enterprises did not always put its name on the horses it owned or the races they ran, presumably to avoid the attention of tax collectors and law enforcement authorities, according to federal agents.

But people inside the financially struggling industry do not need written records to tell them who is doing business with whom. And some of those insiders acknowledged that the subject of José Treviño’s identity, and where he got his money, was treated like so many taboos: people did not ask many questions, either because they did not care, or did not want to know.

“Everyone knows who José Treviño is,” one trainer said. “But all they cared about was whether his checks would clear.”

A Drug Organization Ascends

Made up of rogue members of the Mexican military and police, the Zetas were a protection force for the powerful Gulf Cartel before they set out on their own in 2010. Their ascendancy ignited a spate of massacres and assassinations of elected officials, police chiefs, journalists and others, which turned organized crime from a law enforcement problem to the No. 1 national security threat for Mexico’s fragile democracy.

Miguel Ángel Treviño, known as Zeta-40, or just 40, was never in the military. But he became useful to the Zetas for his experience moving contraband across the border.

Law enforcement authorities said the Zetas have been able to rapidly expand their reach beyond Mexico’s borders with the United States and Guatemala. And while other Mexican drug organizations prefer to keep themselves and their money close to home, the Zetas have established outposts as far as South America and West Africa.

“The Zetas are particularly adroit at spreading their tentacles across borders,” said Michael S. Vigil, a former senior official with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He added that the gang’s extensive intelligence and operational capabilities allow it to take control of new territory so quickly that it is difficult for law enforcement to keep up.

Their primary stronghold is Nuevo Laredo, one of North America’s busiest border-crossings and Mr. Trevino’s hometown.

He had grown up there in a large family with six brothers, including José, and six sisters, American authorities said. Like most local residents, the Treviño family treated the border as a kind of imaginary line.

Law enforcement authorities knowledgeable about the family said the siblings learned the tricks of moving easily between the United States and Mexico, using temporary visas and border-crossing cards to start families, buy properties and do business in both countries.

Court records lay out the nature of the brothers’ turn to crime, which dates back at least two decades. In 1995, an older brother, Juan Francisco Treviño, was sentenced on charges of conspiring to smuggle hundreds of pounds of marijuana into the United States.

On the witness stand, Juan Francisco described himself as a struggling entrepreneur who had tried to make a go of a small construction company, Treviño Masonry, but later went into trucking.

Prosecutors argued that those businesses were fronts for the Treviños’ smuggling activities, citing a raft of lapsed business licenses, false identification documents and suspicious wire transfers.

The defendant was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and remains incarcerated. José and Miguel Ángel Treviño were implicated in the case, but were never prosecuted for lack of evidence, said authorities involved in the investigation.

It is unclear whether the two brothers parted ways at that point or continued collaborating. Miguel Ángel Treviño’s rise through the ranks of the Zetas is well known. Jere Miles, an expert on the Zetas at the Department of Homeland Security, said that among the Mexican underworld, Mr. Treviño had gained the notoriety of a cult figure, one who has escaped unscathed from several gun battles against the law, makes deals with no one and seems unafraid to die. Dismembered bodies, dumped by the dozens, have become his calling card.

He also manages the organization’s money, according to George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary who has written a book about the Zetas.

The trail of public information on José Treviño goes cold until 2009, when he began buying expensive racehorses.

“From all appearances, he looked like anyone else interested in quarter horses,” said one person in the industry who knows José Treviño. “But he had a massive amount of money, with no good explanation where it came from. And he had a family name that made a lot of people wonder.”

New Player at the Track

As much as Tremor was a money-laundering operation, the Treviño brothers’ quarter horse venture allowed them to mix business with pleasure. Horses have long been considered a status symbol in Latin America and drug traffickers have been among the region’s most avid collectors.

Law enforcement officials said quarter horse racing was one of Miguel Ángel Treviño’s favorite pastimes, and even while living on the run, he has managed to keep control of several ranches and racetracks in Mexico and Guatemala where he holds match races, known as parejeras.

But Mexican horse racing — like so much else in that country — has been battered by the violence of the drug war. Many Mexican breeders have moved their operations to the United States, where they could buy horses with better bloodlines and compete for bigger prizes, without fearing for their lives.

“Much of the growth in American quarter horse racing is due to those guys,” said one industry expert, referring to the influx of breeders and buyers from Mexico. “They have spent a lot of money. And it’s made a big, big difference.”

The races, centered in the Southwest, pit scrappier, less expensive horses than high-end thoroughbreds in contests that can be over in less than 20 seconds.

To get in on the action at American tracks, Miguel Ángel Treviño needed someone he could trust to pick a winner. For that, he turned to Mr. Villarreal.

Mr. Villarreal was an unlikely horseman, the socially awkward son of a bookkeeper and teacher known for his build and bottomless appetite as “El Gordo,” or “Fatso.” He began attending auctions as a child, and developed an uncanny ability to spot horses that may not have come from the best lineage, but whose stride or attitude suggested an exceptional capacity for speed.

Mr. Villarreal’s parents said he started buying horses as a teenager, mostly borrowing from relatives and friends. Still, he never seemed to have enough to purchase the kinds of horses that could compete for major prizes. Nor did the strikingly effeminate man ever develop the social skills needed to fit into the macho world of breeders and trainers.

In some ways, said one friend, he stopped trying. For awhile, he named his horses after runway models — like Campbell, as in Naomi, and Elle, as in Macpherson — because he was captivated by women’s fashion.

Mr. Villarreal got his big break in 2006, when he cobbled together $10,500 to buy a colt at an auction at Los Alamitos, records show. He took the horse to Mexico, named it “El Sicario” — which means “The Assassin” — and entered it in the parejera circuit, where it began to beat younger, better-rated competitors.

“That horse got 40’s attention,” said one of Mr. Villarreal’s friends. “He told Ramiro, ‘I want you to buy horses for me.’ ”

He did not hesitate, the friend said. “This was his chance to live his dream.”

Mr. Villarreal’s father, who is also named Ramiro, saw it slightly differently.

“If someone like that asks you to do something,” the elder Mr. Villarreal said, “Are you going to tell him no?”

Soon, the younger Mr. Villarreal’s name began appearing on the lists of the top buyers at auctions in California, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. His first champion was Tempting Dash, which won more than $600,000 in 2009, set a track record during the Texas Classic Futurity and gave Tremor its first victory in a million-dollar race.

No matter how successful, Mr. Villarreal always showed deference to his boss, calling him “Papi.” When Miguel Ángel Treviño wanted to see Tempting Dash for himself, Mr. Villarreal drove the horse, along with dozens of others, to Mexico.

Getting back was more complicated. To avoid inspections, quarantines and other procedures required for bringing livestock into the United States, Mr. Villarreal had trainers sneak the horses back across the border, herding them just after dawn through the Rio Grande.

“My son used to tell me that his biggest blessing was also his curse,” said Mr. Villarreal’s father. “He would tell me, ‘My problem is that I am good at what I do, so a lot of people ask me to help them. Some of those people are good. Some of those people are bad.”

‘A Great Moment’

As much as Miguel Ángel Treviño relied on Mr. Villarreal, he needed his brother, José, to be the face of his fledgling American horse business.

José Treviño, the clean-cut father of three, with a small tattooed Tremor logo on his hand, almost always attended races with his family at his side. He often credited his success to a combination of divine intervention and dumb luck.

“After a win, he always says that he’s been blessed with an ability to pick the right horses and run them in the right races,” said one person who met him. “He’s always humble. He’s the kind of guy who knows what he doesn’t know, who seems eager to learn, and who isn’t shy about asking for advice.”

At the start, José Treviño seemed reticent in the spotlight, avoiding reporters by pretending he did not speak good English. But the more races he won, the more comfortable he seemed with cameras and microphones. People who knew him said he never sought out the media, but never refused to talk when they called.

And they called often.

“That was awesome, that was awesome,” José Treviño said, beaming before reporters in November 2009, after Tempting Dash won the Texas Classic Futurity. “We were expecting him to run big, but we weren’t expecting something like this, to break the track record like this.”

The following year, when the colt named Mr. Piloto won the All American Futurity in Ruidoso, N.M., racing writers called it the “biggest upset in All-American history,” and marveled at how Mr. Treviño, with a “green-as-grass” horse, could beat competitors with better qualifying times and world-class jockeys.

Then last year, a sorrel filly named Separate Fire swept the Ed Burke Futurity at Los Alamitos, Calif., delivering José Treviño his third race where the top prizes were worth $1 million — a record.

“We’re down-to-the-ground people,” he humbly told Track Magazine after the race last July. “This is a great moment, one we are going to enjoy for a long time. But I think you have to take it as it comes and don’t let it change your life.”

Still, his life did change. Tremor’s winning streak allowed him to hire the most respected jockeys, trainers and sales associates in the business. Last year, said people who know him, José Treviño moved his family from a modest suburban house in Mesquite, Tex., where he said he worked in the construction industry, to a large ranch outside Lexington, Okla.

The 70-acre ranch, Zule Farms, is named after his wife, Zulema, a former secretary who told people that she kept the books for Tremor. A person familiar with the ranch said that Mr. Treviño had converted a manure-filled cattle barn on the property into a breeding facility, with state-of-the-art labs and special stalls where mares are implanted with embryos.

Across the quarter horse industry, people started to whisper about where he was getting his money.

“There’s no way all the money he’s putting into that ranch came from being a brick mason. It’s just not logical,” said a person familiar with Zule Farms.

Nor were José Treviño’s operations always transparent. Records show that on at least a couple occasions, he had other people sign for the company’s major purchases. One deal was signed by a teenager who looked like he was not yet old enough to drive. The other was handled by the scion of a prominent quarter horse family, Tyler Graham, who stunned a packed auction house in Oklahoma by agreeing to pay a record $875,000 for a broodmare named Dashin Follies.

At the time of the sale, Mr. Graham said he was buying the horse on behalf of a client he would only identify as “a Mexico resident.” Shortly afterward, records show, he turned the horse over to Tremor. Mr. Graham has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

An industry expert who attended the auction said the sale prompted more rumors. But he said sketchy deals are not uncommon in an industry where payments are made in cash and records are notoriously — even deliberately — unreliable.

“If someone walks into an auction with hundreds of thousands of dollars, and refuses to give his name, no one is going turn him away,” the industry expert said. “What they’ll tell him is, ‘We’ll register the horse in any name you want.’ ”

A Mysterious Death

As José Treviño’s prominence grew in the quarter horse community, so did Miguel Ángel Treviño’s place in the drug trade. By the end of 2010, he had helped lead a brutal expansion so deep into Mexico that the Zetas became not only a priority for Mexico’s security forces, but also an enemy that inspired other drug organizations to join forces and fight.

Miguel Ángel Treviño’s control over drug warehouses and hit squads across the border also compelled United States authorities to offer a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

At the same time, Mr. Villarreal was falling out of favor with Tremor. He was in debt because the Treviño brothers barely paid him enough to cover travel costs, friends said. Mr. Villarreal began padding his expenses, prompting Miguel Ángel Treviño to suspect him of skimming money from Tremor, the friends said.

In September 2010, Mr. Villarreal was traveling to a horse auction in Oklahoma when he was detained by D.E.A. agents during a layover at a Houston airport. A spokesman for the agency refused to comment on its relationship with Mr. Villarreal.

But several law enforcement officials familiar with the case said agents held him for up to six hours, questioning him about his ties to Miguel Ángel Treviño. Before releasing him, the agents confiscated Mr. Villarreal’s cellphone and computer, and ordered him to meet with them a few days later.

When Mr. Villarreal returned, the agents said he could either work for them as an informant or face being prosecuted himself, according to the officials. The D.E.A. wanted Mr. Villarreal to help track Miguel Ángel Treviño’s whereabouts and then lure him into the United States.

Mr. Villarreal pleaded that he was too nervous to pull off the ruse, adding that Miguel Ángel Treviño would never trust him enough to follow him across the border.

But the D.E.A. insisted and a beleaguered Mr. Villarreal relented, the officials said.

At least once, Mr. Villarreal tipped off his handlers when Miguel Ángel Treviño went to a racetrack in Nuevo Laredo.

“Mexican authorities took pictures of 40, but they didn’t try to arrest him,” said one of Mr. Villarreal’s friends. “They told Ramiro that they were afraid too many people might get killed. Ramiro told them if they waited any longer, he was going to get killed.”

Sometime around the end of that year, Miguel Ángel Treviño summoned Mr. Villarreal to a meeting. Mr. Villarreal’s friends recounted the following incident as he had described it to them.

A pickup point was arranged in Laredo, where Mr. Villarreal was blindfolded and then driven into the Mexican desert by gang members.

Minutes dragged as Mr. Villarreal waited for Miguel Ángel Treviño to arrive. He saw two vats filled with a liquid he presumed to be acid, one of the trafficker’s preferred methods for disposing of bodies.

“Where’s Papi?” he asked the men.

“Don’t worry,” they answered. “He’s coming.”

Miguel Ángel Treviño arrived about an hour later in a car with more lieutenants and an unknown man, who was also wearing a blindfold.

The trafficker hugged Mr. Villarreal and asked, “You’re not screwing me, are you, Gordo?”

“No, of course not, Papi,” Mr. Villarreal answered.

Saying he would be back “in a minute,” Miguel Ángel Treviño walked over to the unknown man, took off his blindfold, shot him in the head and ordered his men to dump the body in one of the vats of acid.

Mr. Villarreal passed out. He told his friends he did not know how long he was unconscious, but when he awoke Miguel Ángel Treviño was slapping him in the face and laughing.

“What’s wrong, Gordo?” he joked. “You can’t handle seeing me kill someone? Next time, I’m going to have you do it.”

“No Papi,” Mr. Villarreal said. “I don’t want there to be a next time.”

The drug trafficker got back into his car and drove away. Mr. Villarreal was taken back to Laredo and immediately got in touch with the D.E.A., imploring the agents to release him from their agreement.

“When I met him he was a complete mess; profusely sweating, gangrene in one leg, and barely able to walk,” said a former law enforcement official. “He was in between a rock and a hard place: either stay in the United States and risk going to prison, or go back to Mexico and risk getting killed.”

In the end, Mr. Villarreal, 38, continued informing for the D.E.A. and in March, Miguel Ángel Treviño summoned him to another meeting.

On March 10, 2011, Mr. Villarreal’s car was found incinerated outside Nuevo Laredo. There was so little left of him that authorities took DNA samples from the ashes to identify his remains.

One federal law enforcement official said some agents believed his death was an accident, but acknowledged that no investigation was conducted.

Mr. Villarreal’s father said he had little hope of ever finding the truth. Asked who he thought was behind Mr. Villarreal’s death, the round, balding man looked over at his wife, tears streaming down her cheeks, and echoed a refrain heard from so many Mexican crime victims. “If we ask questions, we could be the next ones to die, so for us, this is a closed chapter.”

Whispers of a “mob hit” spread across the quarter horse industry. In March, law enforcement agents even raided Tremor’s stables at Los Alamitos racetrack. But none of it seemed to slow down Tremor’s business.

Last weekend, at Los Alamitos, a Tremor colt named Mr. Ease Cartel ran the second-fastest qualifying time for a million-dollar race scheduled for June 24. When Jose Trevino’s daughter was married recently, guests included well-known figures in the industry and Track magazine covered the “big event” on its Web site.

“If he had been some thug, or the stereotypical person you’d expect to be in a drug cartel, then maybe people wouldn’t have accepted him and done business with him,” a former trainer said of José Treviño. “But he’s a really nice guy, so none of us wanted to believe he could have anything to do with the killing going on in Mexico.””


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at or at one of the offices listed above.

U.S. Agents Launder Mexican Profits of Drug Cartels

December 5, 2011
Drug Cartels
Josue Gonzalez/Reuters
“A crime scene in Monterrey, Mexico, last week. Drug-related violence has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people since late 2006, Mexican officials say.”

The New York Times on December 3, 2011 released the following:


WASHINGTON — Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.

The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are.

They said agents had deposited the drug proceeds in accounts designated by traffickers, or in shell accounts set up by agents.

The officials said that while the D.E.A. conducted such operations in other countries, it began doing so in Mexico only in the past few years. The high-risk activities raise delicate questions about the agency’s effectiveness in bringing down drug kingpins, underscore diplomatic concerns about Mexican sovereignty, and blur the line between surveillance and facilitating crime. As it launders drug money, the agency often allows cartels to continue their operations over months or even years before making seizures or arrests.

Agency officials declined to publicly discuss details of their work, citing concerns about compromising their investigations. But Michael S. Vigil, a former senior agency official who is currently working for a private contracting company called Mission Essential Personnel, said, “We tried to make sure there was always close supervision of these operations so that we were accomplishing our objectives, and agents weren’t laundering money for the sake of laundering money.”

Another former agency official, who asked not to be identified speaking publicly about delicate operations, said, “My rule was that if we are going to launder money, we better show results. Otherwise, the D.E.A. could wind up being the largest money launderer in the business, and that money results in violence and deaths.”

Those are precisely the kinds of concerns members of Congress have raised about a gun-smuggling operation known as Fast and Furious, in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed people suspected of being low-level smugglers to buy and transport guns across the border in the hope that they would lead to higher-level operatives working for Mexican cartels. After the agency lost track of hundreds of weapons, some later turned up in Mexico; two were found on the United States side of the border where an American Border Patrol agent had been shot to death.

Former D.E.A. officials rejected comparisons between letting guns and money walk away. Money, they said, poses far less of a threat to public safety. And unlike guns, it can lead more directly to the top ranks of criminal organizations.

“These are not the people whose faces are known on the street,” said Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent and the author of a book about his years as an undercover agent inside the Medellín cartel in Colombia. “They are super-insulated. And the only way to get to them is to follow their money.”

Another former drug agency official offered this explanation for the laundering operations: “Building up the evidence to connect the cash to drugs, and connect the first cash pickup to a cartel’s command and control, is a very time consuming process. These people aren’t running a drugstore in downtown L.A. that we can go and lock the doors and place a seizure sticker on the window. These are sophisticated, international operations that practice very tight security. And as far as the Mexican cartels go, they operate in a corrupt country, from cities that the cops can’t even go into.”

The laundering operations that the United States conducts elsewhere — about 50 so-called Attorney General Exempt Operations are under way around the world — had been forbidden in Mexico after American customs agents conducted a cross-border sting without notifying Mexican authorities in 1998, which was how most American undercover work was conducted there up to that point.

But that changed in recent years after President Felipe Calderón declared war against the country’s drug cartels and enlisted the United States to play a leading role in fighting them because of concerns that his security forces had little experience and long histories of corruption.

Today, in operations supervised by the Justice Department and orchestrated to get around sovereignty restrictions, the United States is running numerous undercover laundering investigations against Mexico’s most powerful cartels. One D.E.A. official said it was not unusual for American agents to pick up two or three loads of Mexican drug money each week. A second official said that as Mexican cartels extended their operations from Latin America to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, the reach of the operations had grown as well. When asked how much money had been laundered as a part of the operations, the official would only say, “A lot.”

“If you’re going to get into the business of laundering money,” the official added, “then you have to be able to launder money.”

Former counternarcotics officials, who also would speak only on the condition of anonymity about clandestine operations, offered a clearer glimpse of their scale and how they worked. In some cases, the officials said, Mexican agents, posing as smugglers and accompanied by American authorities, pick up traffickers’ cash in Mexico. American agents transport the cash on government flights to the United States, where it is deposited into traffickers’ accounts, and then wired to companies that provide goods and services to the cartel.

In other cases, D.E.A. agents, posing as launderers, pick up drug proceeds in the United States, deposit them in banks in this country and then wire them to the traffickers in Mexico.

The former officials said that the drug agency tried to seize as much money as it laundered — partly in the fees the operatives charged traffickers for their services and another part in carefully choreographed arrests at pickup points identified by their undercover operatives.

And the former officials said that federal law enforcement agencies had to seek Justice Department approval to launder amounts greater than $10 million in any single operation. But they said that the cap was treated more as a guideline than a rule, and that it had been waived on many occasions to attract the interest of high-value targets.

“They tell you they’re bringing you $250,000, and they bring you a million,” one former agent said of the traffickers. “What’s the agent supposed to do then, tell them no, he can’t do it? They’ll kill him.”

It is not clear whether such operations are worth the risks. So far there are few signs that following the money has disrupted the cartels’ operations, and little evidence that Mexican drug traffickers are feeling any serious financial pain. Last year, the D.E.A. seized about $1 billion in cash and drug assets, while Mexico seized an estimated $26 million in money laundering investigations, a tiny fraction of the estimated $18 billion to $39 billion in drug money that flows between the countries each year.

Mexico has tightened restrictions on large cash purchases and on bank deposits in dollars in the past five years. But a proposed overhaul of the Mexican attorney general’s office has stalled, its architects said, as have proposed laws that would crack down on money laundered through big corporations and retail chains.

“Mexico still thinks the best way to seize dirty money is to arrest a trafficker, then turn him upside down to see how much change falls out of his pockets,” said Sergio Ferragut, a professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico and the author of a book on money laundering, which he said was “still a sensitive subject for Mexican authorities.”

Mr. Calderón boasts that his government’s efforts — deploying the military across the country — have fractured many of the country’s powerful cartels and led to the arrests of about two dozen high-level and midlevel traffickers.

But there has been no significant dip in the volume of drugs moving across the country. Reports of human rights violations by police officers and soldiers have soared. And drug-related violence has left more than 40,000 people dead since Mr. Calderón took office in December 2006.

The death toll is greater than in any period since Mexico’s revolution a century ago, and the policy of close cooperation with Washington may not survive.

“We need to concentrate all our efforts on combating violence and crime that affects people, instead of concentrating on the drug issue,” said a former foreign minister, Jorge G. Castañeda, at a conference hosted last month by the Cato Institute in Washington. “It makes absolutely no sense for us to put up 50,000 body bags to stop drugs from entering the United States.””


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing


To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at or at one of the offices listed above.