Around 11:30 p.m. on April 2  in suburban Vancouver, B.C., Clayton Roueche’s cell phone rang. It was his friend Pam Lee, who was looking for a ride down to Bellingham [Washington] International Airport, where she hoped to catch a flight to a concert in California.
“I know I can’t ask you,” Lee said.
“Yeah,” replied Roueche, as Canadian federal authorities quietly listened in with recording equipment. “I’ll never come back.”
“Do you know anybody that could?” Lee asked.
“Drive you to the States?” asked Roueche.
“Yeah,” Lee replied.
Well, said Roueche, “I wouldn’t even get down [to Bellingham]; they’d throw me in jail.”
Seattle Weekly, “The Last King of Potland,” September 09, 2008
Think of drug lords, drug trafficking organizations, and cross-border drug-trafficking and one naturally thinks of the U.S.-Mexican border, the Mexican Mafia, and Latino street gangs. But the United Nations Gang in Vancouver, British Columbia has become a major criminal force in the U.S.-Canadian criminal traffic. In a sentence, the gang has smuggled marijuana and people south across the border, and cocaine and guns north.
This Thursday (November 5, 2009), Clayton (Clay) Roueche, said to be the gang’s founder, will face sentencing in the federal district court in Seattle, Washington. Federal prosecutors have asked the court to sentence Roueche to 30 years in prison.
In spite of his well-founded suspicion and caution, Rouche was arrested last year. The collar is described in the government’s sentencing memorandum. (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):
On May 19, 2008, Clay Roueche flew from Canada to Mexico, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a UN Gang member. Mexican law enforcement learned that Roueche was wanted in connection with drug trafficking crimes and rejected his application for entry into their country. When Roueche’s return flight to Canada landed in Houston, Texas on a layover, he was arrested on the outstanding warrant [from a sealed indictment] and brought to this district.
Court records demonstrate that, although marijuana enthusiasts may perceive toking a bit of “BC Bud” to be a “harmless” indulgence, akin to drinking a glass of fine champagne, the proceeds of trafficking in the Canadian weed finance cocaine trafficking by the same criminal organizations. Of course, this marijuana is also pouring into the ersatz “medical marijuana” compassionate use market.
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The Seattle Weekly described Roueche and the UN Gang in its September 2008 article, “The Last King of Potland,” as follows:
[The] British Columbia’s “United Nations” drug gang, [was] founded by Roueche and some of his high-school buddies in the 1990s. Now comprising as many as 300 white, Asian, and Persian members fond of dragon tattoos and designer hoodies, the gang has its own monogrammed tombstones, jewelry, and kilos of cocaine, as well as its own motto-”Honor, Loyalty, Respect”-and trail of alleged murders.
Canadian court documents describe United Nations members as “involved in marijuana grows and cross-border trafficking, extortion, threatening, and kidnappings and…linked to numerous homicides.” Based in the Fraser River Valley south of Vancouver, the organization is connected to the international Chinese crime syndicate Triad, according to investigators.
With help from local associates, the UN’s money and drugs move through Puget Sound or eastern Washington, then along the West Coast, according to U.S. and Canadian court documents. Cocaine flows north from Mexico, marijuana heads south to California, and cash goes both ways as payment and profit. The gang also deals in Ecstasy-but bud is #1.
The Economist recently estimated that historically low-crime Canada now has 950 major gangs, with Vancouver as ground zero. This decade, the B.C. drug trade has spiked to a now-estimated $7 billion annually. All that money creates a glitzy gang culture in which, a Vancouver policeman observes, “handguns are as ubiquitous as cell phones.”
The Federal Case
Last April Roueche pleaded guilty, and according to the government’s sentencing memorandum, “[admitted] to conspiring with others to export more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. He also admitted to arranging for the collection and transportation of marijuana proceeds in an attempt to conceal or disguise the sources of those funds.” The sentencing memorandum calls this a merely “legalistic description,” and fills in the details, buttressed by an affidavit and other exhibits from the investigation.
Here is how the federal prosecutors summed up Roueche and the UN Gang’s criminal operations:
In this era, where federal law enforcement agents have focused intensely on stopping the international drug trade, the phrases “drug lord” and “international drug-trafficking organization” can be misused and overstated. But not in this case. Defendant Clay 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 used private airplanes, float planes, helicopters, cars, semi-trucks and coded Blackberry telephones to create a secret and successful organization that he planned to extend into the Far East and South America. He employed pilots, drug couriers and money transporters to carry out the objectives of his organization. His organization was equal parts corporate and violent. Clay Roueche worked hard, with laudable organizational skills coupled with an attention to detail, to achieve the moniker “drug lord.” Similarly, his organization deserves the descriptor of “international drug trafficking organization.”
Three separate drug and money laundering investigations dovetailed in 2005 and 2006, and each led to Roueche’s Canadian-based, multi-national, multi-ethnic drug trafficking organization known as the United Nations Gang (hereinafter “UN Gang”). Defendant Clay Roueche was the public face of this violent, quasi-corporate group, and led its drug trafficking endeavors. 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. The UN Gang is the type of organized, sophisticated drug trading group that presents a significant danger to the safety, peace and security of the United States.
In one of the attached exhibits, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Peter Ostrovsky described one of the “dovetailed” investigations that led to Roueche’s indictment, arrest, and ultimately guilty plea (United States v. Roueche, “Government’s Sentencing Memorandum, Exhibit 3, Affidavit of Peter Ostrovsky,” U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, Docket No. CR-07-0344 RSL.):
3. …most prolific Canadian DTO are involved in the smuggling of Canadian marijuana into the United States in order to generate illicit proceeds which are subsequently used to purchase multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine in the United States for subsequent export and trafficking into Canada. This sort of criminality dramatically increases the United States’ illicit drug supply by causing Mexican and Colombian DTO to smuggle more cocaine, which is subsequently trafficked in the United States and sold to Canadian DTO.
4. In the fall of 2004, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Border Integrity Program relayed information to ICE that they heard helicopters were being used for the smuggling of drug contraband across the United States–Canada border. The RCMP had no specific information about where the smuggling activity was occurring along the border….”
5. Based on the information that ICE collected, I conceived Operation Frozen Timber as an ICE-led investigative operation with criminal investigative and homeland security purposes…By conducting such an investigative operation, ICE would also be able to ultimately prevent others from using smuggling via helicopter as a means to conduct National Security-related offenses.
6. During January 2005, ICE agents began extensive follow-up investigation to positively identify the persons, aircraft and locations that were being used during suspected smuggling via helicopter activities. Ultimately, ICE investigation determined that the majority of the persons that were involved in smuggling via helicopter activities were working under the direction of Roueche and his subordinates in the UN GANG.
[ICE deployed motion-triggered video monitors in remote locations, and working with informants and other sophisticated investigative techniques, observed and filmed a number of occasions when helicopters from Canada brought in large loads of marijuana, dumping them off in duffle bags to gang members on the ground. Working through an informant, ICE agents in May 2005 sold “suspected Canadian drug smugglers” Trevor Schoueten and Brian Fews a pickup truck which had been covertly fitted out with a GPS monitor and a “kill switch.” In June, the kill switch was activated during a run and the investigators gathered further intelligence when “Roueche subsequently contacted the informant and requested that the informant assist Schoueten in recovering the vehicle and marijuana load from the Washington State Patrol.” Several subjects of the investigation admitted that they had been smuggled across the border in the helicopters.]
16…. Unfortunately on that same date, a RCMP member who was requested to identify the pilot of the helicopter, inadvertently advised the pilot Henry Rosenau that the U.S. Government was aware of his smuggling activities along with the locations from where Rosenau was operating the helicopters in British Columbia, Canada.…
21. During December, 2005, during telephone conversations with the informant, Roueche solicited the informant to transport the illicit proceeds from narcotics sales in Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California in a vehicle with a hidden compartment. During the conversations, Roueche stated that the transportation of the proceeds to California would enable him “to get what I need.” Roueche’s statement was a reference to cocaine for the purpose of exporting it to Canada.
23. Between January and March 2006, on multiple occasions, Roueche and his subordinate [defendant] Daniel Russell, directed the informant to have undercover ICE agents pick up, transport and deliver a total of $748,460 to persons in the Los Angeles area.
26. During 2006, follow up investigation by ICE agents and local police investigators and the conduct of multiple search warrants resulted in the seizure of over $2,000,000 in U.S. currency and approximately 200 kilograms of cocaine in the Los Angeles area.
30. As a result of Operation Frozen Timber, ICE agents identified at least 15 helicopter landing sites on federal and state lands in Washington State that were being used by the UN GANG for drug and human smuggling activities. ICE agents further determined that the smuggling via helicopters was as follows: there were multiple Canadian-registered helicopters operating from Canada away from traditional airports in rural locations, the helicopters were being loaded with drug contraband in uninhabited, forested mountainous terrain near the border, the helicopters were evading civil aviation radar detection and authorities by flying through cross border mountainous terrain where there is no radar coverage, the helicopters were flying eight to 40 miles south of the border and exploiting uninhabited federal and state lands where they could offload their drug contraband in 43 seconds to 3 minutes and then return to Canada. Based upon the aforementioned technical data alone, this sort of smuggling activity poses a significant threat to U.S. border and homeland security.
31. Also as a result of Operation Frozen Timber and its focus on Roueche and the activities of the UN GANG in multiple judicial districts in the Western United States, ICE agents and their law enforcement partners were able to seize approximately 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, five firearms and conduct the undercover delivery of $748,460 in U.S. currency at the direction of Roueche and Russell. ICE agents also documented through motion-activated video surveillance systems, that approximately 3,500 pounds of Canadian marijuana was smuggled into the United States by Roueche and the UN GANG which was not seized by the U.S. Government. Based on the aforementioned seizures, information and proffers by convicted UN GANG members and criminal associates…it is estimated that Roueche and the UN GANG were responsible for importing at least 2,000 pounds of Canadian marijuana into Washington State from British Columbia, Canada and exporting at least 200 pounds of cocaine from California into British Columbia, Canada, per month.
Unrepentant Gang Boss
Roueche may be brilliant as a gang boss and drug lord. But he did himself no favors as a convicted felon awaiting sentencing. According to the sentencing memorandum, he painted himself as unrepentant and down with the hoods he met in several lockups:
None of Roueche’s post-arrest actions or writings evinces any desire to change his lifestyle or move in a different direction. He simply wishes to continue supporting his organization until he can get out and pick up where he left off. In a letter addressed to “Mrs. Roueche” but which begins, “To my Bro’s [sic],” Roueche spends two handwritten pages re-dedicating himself to his gang. He muses about the “hella cool” cellmates he had in the Federal Detention Center, commenting that he closely listened to their stories because he has, “a big thirst for knowledge.” The first person he described had, “crazy tatts and bullet wounds everywhere as well as stacks of charges LOL.”
Roueche spoke reverentially of this inmate, as well as two others with criminal pasts, and describes that they all “seemed solid.” He put himself on equal footing with these criminals, explaining, “it seems real men can usually tell what others are real.” Roueche also appears to hold those who refuse to talk to the authorities as more upstanding than those who do not. He described that the inmates in state prisons are more “solid” than those in the federal system because those in the state system must “show paperwork.” He described his stay in a Texas jail as “interesting” and noted that he “met a cool crew there too.”
Roueche simply shows no desire to walk away from the very people with whom he surrounded himself during his crimes. His behavior and his letters evince a continuing need to lead his “crew” and return to the drug trafficking he has lived for the past several years. He does not show a need or an inclination to change. When released, Roueche will undoubtedly go back to trafficking in narcotics, or whatever illegal goods make the most money for him.
This, of course, will do him no good when he stands before the bar of justice and gets what’s coming to him. Meanwhile, local media in Vancouver reports that the UN Gang has recovered from its loss and is still up to its elbows in criminality.