By Jazmine Ulloa - American-Statesman Staff
Former drug traffickers have described Carlos Nayen Borbolla as a savvy and charming businessman, a knowledgeable horse buyer and a key background player in an operation that laundered nearly $60 million through the U.S. quarter horse industry for one of the most violent criminal organizations in Mexico.
Money laundering trial and beyond
But until Wednesday, when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison on money laundering conspiracy charges, Nayen had rarely appeared in court and never testified in his own defense.
Most of the records in his case are sealed, he did not take the stand in a trial for five of his co-defendants in April, and since September, his lawyers had been fighting to close his sentencing hearing to the public. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled Friday to keep it partially open.
Before the court Wednesday, his lawyer, Frank Rubino, and his family touched on his personal story. Rubino said Nayen had been raised by his grandparents without the love and guidance of his parents. The young man was practically born into crime, Rubino said, becoming involved with illicit activities in his teens.
His mother told Sparks that she wished she had not abandoned him, while his wife said she and Nayen had a 1½-year-old baby whom her husband had never held. He was arrested in the summer of 2012.
Standing in shackles and an orange jumpsuit, Nayen, who had been facing up to life in prison, apologized to the government and society for his actions. “I would like you to know that I was not arrested. I was rescued from the world I was living in,” he said.
He is the last of nearly 20 people to receive punishment in the case, one of the largest prosecuted in Central Texas and which implicated the two top leaders of the Zetas, brothers Miguel Ángel and Óscar Omar Treviño Morales.
Five businessmen — including a third Treviño brother — were tried in April. All but one was found guilty of conspiracy to launder money.
In trial testimony, former drug traffickers said Nayen was often the one to choose the best studs and mares, which were then bought by straw purchasers and placed under the names of other people to disguise their ownership. In photographs presented by prosecutors, he stood out from his associates in plaid shirts and cowboy boots with his clean-cut style and slicked-back hair.
He was introduced to quarter horses by another of the defendants, Mexican businessman Francisco Colorado Cessa, who was like a father figure to the young man, witnesses said. Colorado was sentenced to 20 years in prison in September and is facing new charges for attempting to bribe Sparks, according to court records.
In a separate indictment out of the Northern District of Texas, Nayen was said to have formed part of another trafficking organization, running weapons and cash south into Mexico and drugs north across the United States, using proceeds to buy automobiles, houses, jewelry and other valuable assets.
Among defendants listed in that case were two witnesses in the April trial who defense lawyers argued were not credible and had been charged with murder in Mexico.