News Column

Bribe Allegations in Zetas Horse-racing Scam

September 6, 2013

Marty Schladen

As a Mexican businessman testified in court Thursday, law enforcement was preparing to unseal a criminal complaint that he had attempted to give a $1 million bribe to the federal judge he was sitting next to.

Federal authorities Friday morning announced the attempted bribery complaint against the businessman and a defendant who was sentenced on Thursday to 20 years in prison. Francisco Colorado Cessa was convicted in May on charges that he participated in a scheme to launder Los Zetas drug proceeds by purchasing racehorses in the United States -- including Ruidoso.

As part of the case, El Pasoan Raul Ramirez, 21, was sentenced to a year in prison Friday to a relatively minor role in the case. He pleaded guilty to placing bids

on racehorses that were paid for with Zeta money.

Next to Jose Trevino Morales, the brother of two of the Zetas' top leaders, Colorado was the biggest player to be convicted in the U.S. horse racing conspiracy, which also involved doping horses and fixing races.

Colorado's business partner, Ramon Segura Flores, 52, on Thursday testified that payments to his company, ADT Petroleos Servicios, came from Pemex, the Mexican national oil company, and not from the brutal Zetas, as federal prosecutors had asserted.

Segura was in court for the Colorado's sentencing hearing. The complaint prosecutors unsealed later that night accuses Segura and Colorado of plotting to bribe Judge Sam Sparks to give Colorado a lesser sentence than the 20

years that had been recommended.

Also charged was Colorado's son, Francisco Colorado Cessa Jr., 25. U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman said that all three men face a maximum five-year prison sentence as a consequence of the charges.

The criminal complaint says that Segura and Colorado Jr. plotted with an undercover FBI agent to give Sparks a $250,000 "down payment" on the $1 million bribe in a golf bag at an Austin-area golf course. Authorities said Sparks was unaware of the plot.

In the complaint, federal authorities said they learned of the bribery scheme from a confidential source and by monitoring telephone calls by Colorado, who was held at the Bastrop County Jail, and his son.

"The latest allegation, if proven, demonstrates that individuals associated with the most violent drug cartel believe they can corrupt what we hold as the bedrock of American justice -- the United States courts," Pitman said in a statement. "This community should rest assured that we will sop at nothing to send the message that we are one step ahead of them and if they continue to try to function as they do in Mexico, we will find them, we will stop them, and we will do whatever it takes to ensure they are punished to the full extent of the law."

Segura contended that ADT's profits came from legitimate work the company did for Pemex.

But prosecutors said it was part of a money-laundering scheme in which millions in Zeta money were paid to Mexican politicians who pressured the oil company to give ADT lucrative contracts. ADT in turn paid millions for quarter horses in the United States that ended up in the possession of Jose Trevino.

Trevino's brother, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, was believed to be the top leader of the Zetas until he was captured by Mexican authorities in July. Another brother, Oscar Omar Trevino Morales, is still at large and could be leading the cartel now that his brother is incarcerated.

Miguel and Oscar Trevino are wanted in the U.S. as part of the racehorse conspiracy.

Fernando Solis Garcia, 30, a Mexican citizen who lived in Ruidoso, was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years Thursday for his role in the scheme. Starting in 2010, Garcia ran a horse barn financed by the Zetas in Ruidoso and managed some of the business affairs of the horse operation, which extended into Oklahoma, Texas and California.

Marty Schladen may be reached at mschladen@elpasotimes.com; 512-479-6606.

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Source: Copyright El Paso Times (TX) 2013


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