A drug ring based in part at an Iowa Thoroughbred farm was busted last month, and one of the special agents investigating the case said it was a “Mexican cartel” type of operation infiltrating horse-related businesses at an increasing rate.
A sting set up by the federal agents and the Mid Iowa Narcotics Enforcement (MINE) Task Force led to the arrest of Emiliano Villegas Caballero, who worked and lived on the farm of leading trainer and Prairie Meadows Hall of Fame inductee Dick Clark. Villegas Caballero was being held in the Polk County jail after being charged in federal court with being “an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.”
Lt. Brad Shutts of the MINE Task Force said Villegas Caballero was storing large quantities of “ice” methamphetamines at a residence on Clark's farm in Mingo, Iowa, then transferring the drugs to a distribution operation, at another farm Villegas Caballero had purchased just off Interstate 80 in nearby Colfax. Colfax is about 15 miles east of Prairie Meadows.
Shutts said Clark, who lived on the farm in a different residence, was “shocked” to learn of the drug distribution ring and cooperated fully in the investigation.
Agents of the U.S. government's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, using GPS tracking devices and several confidential informants making controlled purchases, worked with local authorities on the case.
A total of $90,000 in cash was seized at the Colfax property and at Villegas Caballero's residence on Clark's farm, where two pounds of methamphetamines were discovered. Bank records indicating large cash deposits also were found, along with multiple firearms.
Two other men, including Ulises Sevilla-Lozano, identified as the “mastermind” of the operation, were also arrested.
“This was the largest quantity we'd ever seen,” said Shutts. “This was a major, Mexican cartel type of operation. We are finding that many of these Mexican meth rings are horse track or horse business related.”
The indictment of Villegas Caballero said methamphetamine and other drugs were brought from California in semi-trucks, then loaded into horse trailers at the Colfax farm and taken to Clark's farm in Mingo “for storage.”
Clark told the Paulick Report Villegas Caballero had been working for him “off and on for 10 or 12 years.
“He did chores and took care of the horses at my farm,” said Clark. “I knew that he might have been doing some match racing at the Colfax farm with Quarter horses but this really surprised me, I tell you.”
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