B.C. gang leader Clay Roueche has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to drug-trafficking charges in the U.S.
The sentence was handed down by a Seattle judge Wednesday who said he was convinced Roueche “took orders from no one” in his position atop the violent United Nations gang — so called because it welcomed all nationalities into its membership.
The 35-year-old resident of B.C.’s Fraser Valley was arrested in the United States and pleaded guilty in April to conspiring to use small planes and helicopters to import more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana into the U.S. and to export cocaine to Canada.
Federal prosecutors in Washington state had asked for a 30-year sentence.
“We think it’s wholly appropriate given the level of his drug smuggling and the organized criminal ties that … he serve 30 years in prison,” said Emily Langley, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Roueche was arrested in May 2008 after trying to enter Mexico on a flight from Canada. He was put on a flight back to Canada that had a stopover in Texas, where he was arrested by U.S. police.
Authorities on both sides of the border co-operated in the investigation, Langley said.
“Mr. Roueche is tied to a great deal of cocaine going from this state into Canada, as well as marijuana going south,” she said. “According to information that was provided by Canadian investigators, the UN gang is implicated in a great deal of violence in British Columbia.”
Lower Mainland police have alleged Roueche and his gang have engaged in a deadly struggle with the rival Red Scorpions and other gangs for control of the illegal drug trade.
Police have blamed the gang war for some of the more than 20 fatal shootings across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley in the past year.
– Article from CBC News on December 16, 2009.
UN gang leader sentenced to 30 years in prison
by Darcy Wintonyk, CTV News
Clayton Roueche, the leader of British Columbia’s notorious United Nations gang, has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in a cross-border drug smuggling ring.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik handed down the sentence in a Seattle courtroom Wednesday afternoon.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office pushed for the term after the 34-year-old Abbotsford man pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering conspiracy charges earlier this year.
Roueche is the operational leader as well as the public face of the UN gang, a multi-national, multi-ethnic drug dealing organization, which originated in B.C.’s Fraser Valley 11 years ago, according to court documents.
At sentencing, Judge 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,” he said.
It is believed the gang had Canadian networks in Alberta, Toronto and Montreal. The organization is also implicated in other possible drug cases in California, Oregon, Eastern Washington State and Idaho, the United States Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.
A long journey
Roueche was arrested in Texas in May 2008 after trying to enter Mexico for an associate’s wedding. Deemed a flight risk, he has been held in isolation in a Seattle-area detention centre ever since.
U.S. prosecutors say Roueche used private helicopters, airplanes and automobiles to move marijuana, money and cocaine through various North American borders. In his plea agreement, Roueche admitted he conspired with others to export cocaine from the U.S. into Canada from 2005 onward.
Prosecutors also said the UN leader “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.”
The three-year investigation into the UN gang by the U.S. Attorney’s Office saw the seizure of 2,169 pounds of Canadian marijuana, 335 kilograms of cocaine, $2,033,388 in U.S. currency, two pounds of crack cocaine, four pounds of methamphetamine, and five firearms.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors wrote: “The group used guns, threats and violence to keep its contracted workers and gang members in line and to ensure that no one informed on the group’s activities.”
Roueche’s lawyer asserts there’s no evidence he engaged in the violence, including targeted killings, that the UN has been blamed for. He had suggested a sentence of 15 to 20 years.
The prison term comes as happy news to U.S. investigators, many who spent several years working on the case.
“As head of one of the most ruthless and powerful criminal organizations operating in this region, Clay Roueche conducted himself with brazen impunity,” said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in Seattle.
“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.”
British Columbia gang wars
Police say members of the UN gang and rival Red Scorpions are responsible for a large portion of the gang violence seen in Metro Vancouver in recent years, and drug trafficking.
In 2008, eight members of the gang were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. Among them was Barzan Tilli-Cholli, who stepped up as the de-facto leader of the UN gang after Rouche’s incarceration.
All eight remain in custody.
After Tilli-Cholli’s incarceration, police say Douglas Edward Vanalstine took charge of the organization.
Vanalstine, along with five others, were charged with drug trafficking November 27 after a major undercover police investigation.
Speaking to media earlier this month, RCMP Supt. Dan Malo described the UN gang as “very fluid,” with new members being initiated as others are killed or incarcerated.
He estimates the UN gang has over 100 members and associates.
– Article from CTV News.