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Canadian gang leader pleads guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering

SEATTLE - The alleged leader of a Canadian gang who oversaw large-scale drug smuggling activity between the United States and Canada, pleaded guilty this afternoon in federal court to conspiring to export cocaine, importing marijuana and engaging in money laundering, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Clay Franklin Roueche, 22, of Vancouver, British Columbia, was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2007 while he was living in Canada. In May 2008, he traveled to Mexico, but was denied entry by Mexican authorities. He was subsequently escorted to a flight that would return him to Canada. However, the plane on which Roueche was traveling had a scheduled stop over in Dallas and he was immediately arrested by ICE agents at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport on May 19, 2008.

According to court documents, Roueche, who is the alleged leader of the United Nations gang based in Vancouver, admitted he conspired with others to export cocaine from the United States into Canada and to import potent "B.C. Bud" marijuana into the United States. He also acknowledged conspiring to transport and deliver cash proceeds from the illegal drug sales.

"Today's guilty plea should give pause to those who are engaged in the risky and violent business of illegal drug trafficking," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations. "ICE remains committed to coordinating its investigations with law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border and beyond in an effort to stem the flow of illicit drugs that ultimately endanger the safety and security of our communities."

Roueche's plea agreement resolves possible charges in other judicial districts in California, Oregon, eastern Washington and Idaho. ICE was joined in the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Rouche's sentencing is slated for September 18, 2009. He faces a prison term of no less than 10 years and up to life in prison.