U.S. Attorney's Office
Western District of Texas
(210) 384-7100
December 10, 2015

Federal Jury in Austin Convicts Mexican Businessman in Money Laundering Conspiracy Involving Los Zetas Drug Distribution Proceeds

In Austin this afternoon, 54-year-old Mexican businessman Francisco Colorado Cessa faces up to 20 years in federal prison after a jury convicted him of scheming to launder millions of dollars in Los Zetas drug distribution proceeds through purchasing, training, breeding and racing American quarter horses in the United States, announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher H. Combs, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge William Cotter and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit.

Jurors convicted Colorado Cessa of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Trial testimony revealed a shell game by Colorado Cessa, a close associate of the Zetas drug cartel’s top leaders including Miguel Angel Trevino Morales (aka “Z-40”), Oscar Omar Trevino Morales (aka “Z-42”), and others involving straw purchasers and transactions worth millions of dollars in New Mexico, Oklahoma, California and Texas to disguise the source of the drug money and make the proceeds from the sale of quarter horses or their race winnings appear legitimate.

Colorado-Cessa was the owner of ADT Petroservicios, an oil services company in Mexico doing business with the Mexican National Oil Company PEMEX. Testimony and evidence revealed that Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the leader of Los Zetas drug cartel, provided drug proceeds to Colorado-Cessa. Colorado-Cessa then laundered those proceeds through his company to eventually purchase quarter horses for both himself and the leaders of the Los Zetas at quarter horse auctions and private sales in the United States.

Over 400 quarter horses seized by federal authorities in June 2012 as part of the above mentioned money laundering operation have been sold for approximately $12 million. One of the seized horses, Tempting Dash, winner of the Dash for Cash at Lone Star Park race track in Grand Prairie, TX, in October 2009, sold at an auction for a record $1.7 million in November 2013.

On September 5, 2013, a federal judge sentenced Colorado Cessa to 20 years in federal prison after a jury convicted him of the same charge. That conviction and sentence was reversed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2015, and the case was remanded back to the District Court for this recent trial.

“Today’s conviction affirms that two separate juries, hearing the same evidence, found Mr. Colorado guilty of laundering money for the Zetas drug cartel,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge William Cotter. “When choosing to make the ‘tempting dash’ for the prize, Mr. Colorado should have known that IRS Special Agents would eventually beat him to the finish line, uncovering the complex layering of transactions Colorado used in laundering the Zetas narcotics profits.”

This investigation was conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service- Criminal Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration with assistance from the United States Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) and U.S. Border Patrol. Other judicial districts involved in this matter include the Western District of Oklahoma, Central District of California, Southern District of Texas, District of New Mexico and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

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