AUSTIN (AP) — Prosecutors told a federal jury on Wednesday that a man they say is the brother of leaders of Mexico's most blood-soaked criminal organization used the proceeds from their brothers' ill-gotten gains to bankroll his horse-racing stable.
Defense attorneys, however, say the federal government is trying to squeeze Jose Trevino Morales to get to two brothers reputed to be leaders of Los Zetas in Mexico.
The jury began deliberating the case Wednesday afternoon. Morales is the central figure of five men charged in a Texas federal court with using a race horse breeding operation to launder millions of dollars in drug cartel money.
The prosecution's case rises or falls on the testimony of admitted criminals, including a hit man who has admitted involvement in multiple homicides, said defense attorney David Finn of Dallas.
Defense attorneys for Morales have argued throughout that prosecutors wrongly targeted their client due to the alleged illegal actions of his brothers — Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Oscar Omar Trevino Morales. Each time Jose Trevino Morales, a U.S. citizen, enters the United States, he is handcuffed and interrogated in the hope of extracting information about his brothers, Finn said.
"He's honest. He's ethical. He's frugal. He's not in the dope business," Finn said of his client.
"The government wants you to engage in what I call 'funky math.' That's zero plus zero plus zero plus zero equals something other than zero," he said.
But federal prosecutor Douglas Gardner said the government case was strong enough for conviction without the testimony of informants and cooperating witnesses.
"I want you to forget about the cooperators," Gardner told jurors. Speaking of the Morales and his co-defendants, he said, "They hang themselves by their actions."
As for motive: "It's about ego. It's about pride. It's about winning the horse race at all costs," Gardner said. "It's not built on sweat, ladies and gentlemen. It's built on the money from his brothers."
The defendants are charged with money laundering conspiracy related to operations of a horse ranch near Lexington, Okla. Prosecutors say ranch operators went through $16 million in horse-related expenses in 30 months. Several other defendants remain at large, including Trevino's brothers. His wife and daughter have pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
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