Clay Roueche pleaded not guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle to allegations that he conspired to bring more than a ton of marijuana into the United States and import more than 11 pounds of cocaine into Canada. Both charges carry mandatory-minimum sentences of 10 years and up to life in prison.Canadian authorities say Roueche is the leader of the United Nations gang, which got its name from the wide-ranging ethnicity of its members.Roueche recently flew from Canada to Mexico. He was denied entry by Mexican authorities, who put him on a flight to Texas, where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents immediately arrested him.
The U.S. Marshals Service brought him to Seattle to face trial. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Bill Whalen, part of a multiagency gang squad, said Thursday that the arrest could "destabilize" the drug-trafficking gang."They have been involved in a fair amount of very serious violence in the lower mainland of British Columbia over the last few years," Whalen said. "There are a number of gang-related murders currently under investigation that they are suspected of being involved in."
Whalen said Roueche started the gang about 10 years ago and has been running it ever since. Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Roe said Rouech's indictment grew out of Operation Frozen Timber, an investigation launched in 2004 that smashed a ring of smugglers that used helicopters and airplanes to bring potent "B.C. Bud" marijuana into remote parts of Washington.Roueche also faces a charge of money laundering, which can bring up to 20 years in prison.U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida ordered Roueche held pending a detention hearing next week.
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