The brother of the reputed second-in-command of Mexico's Los Zetas cartel was arrested Tuesday in the United States on suspicion his successful horse breeding operation has been laundering drug money, The New York Times said.

Jose Treviño Morales and several associates were detained in a massive federal operation that included raids on his Oklahoma ranch and on the Tremor Enterprises stables in Ruidoso, New Mexico.

Jose is the older brother of Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the top enforcer for Los Zetas, which has earned a reputation as the most brutal of Mexico's drug trafficking organizations.

Quarter horses from Tremor Enterprises stables have earned more than $2.5 million at racetracks in the U.S. Southwest.

Jose Treviño recruited Ramiro Villarreal to locate and purchase horses for the operation, which attracted the attention of U.S. authorities in 2010, when Tremor Enterprises spent more than $1 million of Los Zetas money for breeding stock, The Times said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration detained Villarreal and gave him a choice between facing prosecution or acting as an informant against the Treviños.

Villareal was found dead five months after agreeing to work for the DEA.

Los Zetas, a group founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained Mexican special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but the two criminal organizations had a falling out in 2010 and the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account, gaining control of several lucrative territories.

Even in the violent world of Mexican organized crime, the Zetas stand out for their propensity to dismember the bodies of their victims. EFE