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Contraband
12/16/2009

Canadian gang leader gets 30 years on drug, money laundering charges

Lengthy sentence sends deterrent message to other gang leaders

SEATTLE - The head of the United Nations gang, one of the most powerful and ruthless criminal organizations in Canada, was sentenced here in federal court Wednesday to 30 years in prison and five years of supervised release for conspiracy to export cocaine and marijuana and engaging in money laundering.

Clay Franklin Roueche, 34, of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle in October 2007, but the indictment remained under seal until his arrest in Texas in May 2008 as he attempted to enter Mexico. In his plea agreement, Roueche admitted that, beginning in 2005, he conspired to export cocaine from the United States into Canada, to import B.C. Bud marijuana into the United States, and to transporting and delivering the cash proceeds from the illegal drug sales.

The case against Roueche was the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as part of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). It was investigated separately in Canada by the British Columbia Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and other Canadian law enforcement agencies.

Court documents reveal that Roueche oversaw the movement of tens of thousands of pounds of marijuana, thousands of kilograms of cocaine, and millions of U.S. dollars through several states and at least three North American countries. He utilized private airplanes, float planes, helicopters, cars, semi-trucks and coded Blackberry telephones in order to create a secret and successful organization that he planned to extend into the Far East and South America.

The investigation of Roueche spanned three years and resulted in numerous seizures - including 2,169 pounds of Canadian marijuana, 335 kilograms of cocaine, $2 million in U.S. currency, two pounds of crack cocaine, four pounds of methamphetamine, and five firearms. As the leader of the United Nations gang, prosecutors say Roueche was the public face of the violent, quasi-corporate group and the leader of its drug trafficking endeavors. "The group used guns, threats and violence to keep its contracted workers and gang members in line and ensure that no one informed on the group's activities," prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.

At sentencing Chief U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said this was "a day of reckoning" for Roueche. "There are ...children, brothers, sisters and parents suffering every day because of the cocaine and marijuana disbursed by the defendant and his fellow gang members. Children who go to bed hungry because parents spend the money they have feeding their habit.... These are not victimless crimes - they have a profound impact on the people, on neighborhoods and on the communities of our district."

"This sentence should once again serve as a warning of the consequences awaiting individuals who engage in large-scale criminal activity that puts Americans and Canadians alike at risk," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in Seattle. "As head of one of the most ruthless and powerful criminal organizations operating in this region, Clay Roueche conducted himself with brazen impunity. Knowing that he will be spending many years behind bars is gratifying for ICE and the other local and international law enforcement agencies that worked tirelessly to see justice served in this case."