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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Operation Blade Runner

Canadian gangster admits drug charge

A Canadian gangster who authorities say is responsible for major drug distributions in Eastern Washington faces eight years in prison under a plea agreement signed recently in Spokane.

Joseph P. Curry, an associate of imprisoned B.C. drug lord Clay Roueche, pleaded guilty Thursday to importation of Ecstasy, which carries a maximum 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors and Curry's lawyer, Chris Phelps, have agreed to recommend a 102-month sentence and three years probation at his sentencing May 5.

According to the plea agreement filed Thursday, Curry made an emergency landing in a small Cessna plane about 35 miles from the Canadian border in Okanogan County on Aug. 10, 2007.

Federal agents found three duffel bags containing 30 kilograms of Ecstasy nearby. Curry's lawyer called authorities on Aug. 13, 2007, and asked for the plane back, saying his client had experienced engine problems and bad weather. A grand jury indicted Curry the next month.

Curry was named as as a suspect in the Operation Blade Runner federal drug bust that included arrests in Eastern Washington and North Idaho and led to the suicide of young helicopter pilot Samuel Lindsay-Brown int he Spokane County Jail.

After Lindsay-Brown's suicide, another young Canadian man was arrested near Priest Lake with a helicopter filled with marijuana. The helicopter belonged to a friend of Curry's, and authorities believe Curry helped load the aircraft in Canada, according to court documents.

Curry is an associate of the United Nations gang in Vancouver, B.C.

Roueche, the gang leader, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last December. Prosecutors said he ran a drug ring that used a network of helicopters, planes, semi-trucks and other methods to move tons of marijuana and cocaine and millions of dollars through Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Curry and Roueche were photographed together (see left) at the funeral of a UN gang member who was killed in a drug-related shooting in Canada, according to federal court documents.

Federal agents believe a smaller drug ring was headed by four Canadian men, one of whom offered to cooperate if investigators let him continue his operation for a decade.

Canadian gangster arraigned in Spokane

A reputed Canadian gangster who authorities say is responsible for major drug distributions in Eastern Washington has arrived in Spokane to face three-year-old Ecstasy charges.

Joseph P. Curry, an associate of imprisoned B.C. drug lord Clay Roueche, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court Friday to importation of Ecstasy, possession of Ecstasy with intent to distribute and entry without inspection. He faces a maximum 20 years in federal prison and is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail, where he was booked Thursday evening.

He was ordered extradited to the United States from Canada in February, according to the Vancouver Sun.

The case began on Aug. 10, 2007, when federal agents say Curry, 49, abandoned a small Cessna about 35 miles from the Canadian border in Okanogan County. Three duffel bags containing Ecstasy pills were found nearby; Curry has told investigators the drugs were not his and said he knew nothing about them, according to court documents. 

Curry was named as a suspect in the 2009Operation Blade Runner international drug bust, which also included arrests in Eastern Washington and North Idaho and led to the suicide of young helicopter pilot Samuel Lindsay-Brown (left) in the Spokane County Jail.

About a week after Lindsay-Brown's death on Feb. 27, 2009, another young Canadian man, Jeremy Snow, was arrested near Priest Lake with a helicopter filled with marijuana. The helicopter belonged to a friend of Curry's, and authorities believe Curry helped load the helicopter in Canada, according to court documents.

Federal agents say Curry is an associate of the United Nations gang in Vancouver, B.C. Roueche, the gang leader, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last December. Prosecutors say the gang ran a drug ring that used a network of helicopters, planes, semi-trucks and other methods to move tons of marijuana and cocaine and millions of dollars through Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.  

Curry and Roueche are pictured at right at the funeral of a UN gang member who was killed in a drug-related shooting in Canada. The photo was included in Roueche's case file.

Court documents prepared by investigators in August 2007 called Curry “a known suspect in multiple narcotics trafficking cases in Eastern District of Washington.”

In May 2006, a law enforcement helicopter spotted Curry's car meeting with a helicopter in a remote location in B.C. More than 100 kilograms of marijuana in duffel bags was transferred to the helicopter, which was intercepted by law enforcement at a remote location in Eastern Washington.

Authorities never identified the driver of the vehicle, but Curry's name came up about a year later when federal agents found the abandoned plane and nearby Ecstasy stash. The plane had a “for sale” sign that listed Curry's phone number.

Curry's lawyer called authorities on Aug. 13, 2007, and asked for the plane back, saying his client had experienced engine problems and bad weather.

A grand jury indicted Curry the next month. He was extradited to Western Washington before arriving in Spokane last week, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice.

Coke smuggler in ‘copter bust gets 10 years

The last of two drug smugglers arrested in Utah with cocaine bound for a young helicopter pilot in the Colville National Forest has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. 

Ross N. Legge, 54, (right) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine last week in U.S. District Court in Utah and was sentenced to 120 months in prison, followed by 60 months probation according to documents filed on Friday.

  Legge and Leonard J. Ferris were arrested Feb. 21, 2009, near Ogden, Utah, after state troopers found 83 kilograms of cocaine in their car. The bust was part of the ongoing Operation Blade Runner drug investigation. 

Ferris (left) was sentenced in December to six years in prison in a hearing that was closed to the public. 

The men had a storage unit in Spokane Valley where they kept an ATV, trailer, and other items used in drug trafficking. They were driving from Las Vegas to Eastern Washington to trade the cocaine to Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown when they were arrested.

Brown (bottom right) was arrested after federal agents infiltrated the operation following Legge and Ferris’ arrests and caught Brown landing a helicopter with 400 pounds of marijuana. He committed suicide in Spokane County Jail on Feb. 27, 2009.

Ferris pleaded guilty about two months after his arrest, but Legge fought the charge. His guilty plea came after a federal judge rejected a motion to suppress evidence obtained through the search of the truck. Legge was driving the truck but Ferris gave troopers permission to search it because it belonged to him.

Authorities have described Legge and Ferris’ stop as a routine traffic stop, but the motion shows the men were stopped by a state trooper who had already pulled over another vehicle for speeding.

The trooper said he stopped the black Ford F-150 truck Legge and Ferris were in because it didn’t move to the left lane when they passed the trooper, who was stopped alongside the highway’s right lane.

Legge said he lived in Spokane, and he and Ferris gave conflicting stories about why they had traveled to Las Vegas, according to court documents.

U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson rejected Legge’s motion to suppress on March 15.

Legge pleaded guilty and was sentenced on May 5.

Federal agents believe the drug ring was headed by four Canadian men, one of whom offered to cooperate if investigators let him continue his operation for a decade. Read more here.

Drugs, helicopters and death threats

A reputed drug runner who leased the helicopter flown by the young man who committed suicide in Spokane County Jail has been indicted in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

This came after Colin Martin reportedly tried negotiating U.S. protection for his smuggling ring in exchange for handing over his coconspirators.

Martin’s offer is detailed in the indictment filed Dec. 23, which led Canadian authorities to warn him of possible death threats.

It’s the latest development in the Operation Blade Runner drug bust, a multimillion-dollar international smuggling operation that used helicopters to distribute thousands of pounds of marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy, landing in remote sites in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

The indictment shows co-conspirators apparently blamed Martin for the botched run by Samuel J. Lindsay-Brown (top right), allegedly sending Blackberry messages that said Martin “will be lucky if he is not dead.”

They reportedly wanted him to pay for the lost load, estimated to be worth $4 million to $5 million. That was back in February. Canadian authorities thought the guys might be a little ticked when public court documents filed last month detailed Martin’s alleged offer to tell U.S. drug agents all about them.

Read my latest story: Drug ring details emerge

Past coverage: A tale of drugs, money and helicopters

Pilot’s story sought for big, small screens

Drug runner sentenced in closed proceeding

Roueche gets 30 years in prison

A Canadian gangster connected to a drug bust that led to a young man’s suicide in the Spokane County Jail will spend 30 years in prison.

Clayton Roueche, 34, received the sentence in U.S. District Judge Robert Lansik in Seattle Wednesday for a drug ring that used a network of helicopters, planes, semi-trucks and other methods to move tons of marijuana and cocaine and millions of dollars through Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Court documents link Roueche to Joseph P. Curry, a Canadian man named as a suspect in a federal drug bust that included arrests in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

One defendant in that bust cited a murder kit that included night-vision goggles and guns found at Roueche’s home when explaining why she wanted her court file sealed.

 Another defendant in the bust, Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown, 24, killed himself in jail Feb. 27 after being arrested with a helicopter filled with marijuana he was to exchange to two men for cocaine.

Federal prosecutors did not mince words when describing Roueche.

“Clay Roueche worked hard, with laudable organizational skills coupled with an attention to detail, to achieve the moniker “drug lord,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed in October.

Roueche’s family bashed media portrayals of him in letters written to Judge Lansik that urged leniency. Lansik showed none, imposing the prosecution’s requested sentence.

Read Associated Press writer Gene Johnson’s story on Roueche’s sentencing here.

Canadian gangster faces 30 years

A Canadian gangster connected to a drug bust that led to a young man’s suicide in the Spokane County Jail is to be sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Clay Roueche (ROOSH’) faces about 30 years in prison for federal drug conspiracy and trafficking charges.

Roueche is the founder of the United Nations gang in Vancouver, B.C., and has been described by federal prosecutors as “worldly and charismatic” but “remorseless” and “extraordinarily dangerous.”

The UN gang is believed to be responsible for a drug ring that used a network of helicopters, planes, semi-trucks and other methods to move many tons of marijuana and cocaine and millions of dollars through Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

When taken into custody by U.S. agents in Texas in May 2008 (pictured above), Roueche reportedly was wearing a ring worth $125,000.

Prosecutors are recommending he serve at least 30 years in prison. Roueche’s attorney says there’s no evidence he engaged in the violence, including targeted killings, that the UN has been blamed for, according to the Associated Press. He suggests a sentence of 15 to 20 years.

Court documents link Roueche to Joseph P. Curry, who is named as a suspect in the Operation Blade Runner federal drug bust that included arrests in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. (Curry was arrested by federal agents with 68 pounds of Ecstasy in Eastern Washington in 2007 but posted bail and never returned, according to court documents.)

Curry and Roueche were photographed together at the funeral of a UN gang member who was killed in a drug-related shooting in Canada, according to federal court documents.

One defendant in the Blade Runner case cited a murder kit found at Roueche’s home when explaining why she wanted her court file sealed.

Another defendant in the case, Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown, 24, killed himself in jail Feb. 27 after being arrested with a helicopter filled with marijuana he was to exchange to two men for cocaine. (Read more here.)

One of those men, Leonard J. Ferris, was sentenced to six years in federal prison during a closed proceeding Dec. 2.

Feds call for 17+ years in coke bust

A man caught with cocaine in Utah as part of a major drug bust that led to a helicopter pilot’s suicide in the Spokane County Jail faces at least 17 years in prison under a recommendation from federal prosecutors.

Leonard J. Ferris, 50, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Spokane. He and Ross N. Legge, 53, were arrested Feb. 21 near Ogden, Utah in what the Drug Enforcement Administration describes in court papers as a routine traffic stop.

The men had a storage unit in Spokane Valley where they kept an ATV, trailer, and other items used in drug trafficking, according to a search warrant filed in Spokane County Superior Court in April. Legge is awaiting trial in Utah and is asking the court to suppress evidence and statements made by the two.

Legge was driving when the two were pulled over, according to court papers, but Ferris gave permission to search the car because it belonged to him. A state trooper found 83 kilograms of cocaine. Ferris pleaded guilty in April.

Two days after Ferris and Legge’s arrest, Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown, 24, (right) landed a helicopter in the Colville National Forest with 426 pounds of marijuana federal drug agents say was to be exchanged to Ferris and Legge for the cocaine. He killed himself in jail Feb. 27.

Read my Sunday story here detailing the massive drug bust that included arrests in early 2008 and is tied to the violent United Nations gang in Vancouver, B.C.

Ferris’ federal cocaine charge brings a standard sentence of 151 to 188 months (12.5+ to 15.6+ years).

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking for Ferris’ role in the crime to be considered - an “aggravating role adjustment” - which would set the sentence at 210 to 262 months (17.5 to 21.8 years), according to a sentencing memorandum filed Nov. 25.

TV network wants Blade Runner docs unsealed

A Canadian television network is working to unseal court documents in Eastern Washington federal court about the drug bust that led to a legendary young mountain biker’s death in the Spokane County Jail.

Lawyers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filed a motion last week asking a judge to unseal documents in the federal case against a man arrested while en route to meet Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown.

Jail officials say Brown (left and bottom right) committed suicide in jail Feb. 27 after landing a helicopter filled with 420 pounds of marijuana in the Colville National Forest and being met by federal agents Feb. 23.

Federal agents had just busted Leonard J. Ferris and Ross N. Legge with 83 kilograms of cocaine in Utah on Feb. 21.

The arrests revealed a vast drug dealing conspiracy dubbed Operation Blade Runner, which federal agents believe dates back at least five years. ’

Court documents say Ferris and Legge, who had rented storage facilities around Spokane, were to exchange the cocaine to Brown for the marijuana. Originally charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Ferris pleaded guilty in April, but no public record of a sentencing exists in the federal court file, most of which is sealed.

The motion, filed Oct. 5 by the Seattle law firm Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, said it’s unclear what exactly is sealed in Ferris’ file because even the motion to seal is sealed.

“Presumably, these are sentencing-related documents,” according to the motion. “The Ninth Circuit has recognized the media’s legitimate interest in such documents because of the media’s ability to explain how sentencing decisions are made.”

A documentary news show for CBC called “the fifth estate” is investigating Brown’s death, which is notably not refered to as a suicide in the network’s court filings.

Brown’s death came a week before another young man, Jeremy Snow, was arrested as he landed a helicopter in North Idaho meant to deliver 300 pounds of marijuana and 40,000 pills of Ecstasy.

Snow was sentenced Oct. 2 in Western Washington District Court to 46 months in prison. According to court filings, federal agents accessed Blackberry messages Snow sent to friends and the cohorts his lawyer says pressured him to take the flight.

“During the actual flight, he sent a message which read ‘Flyen 300p over brdr right now! Cha ching,’” according to Snow’s sentencing memorandum. “The government believes that this translates to read that he was flying over the US-Canadian border at that moment and that he was expecting to be well-paid for doing so.”

After Brown, Legge and Ferris were arrested, undercover agents infiltrated the group and set up Snow, court documents show.

(Read a grand jury indictment detailing Operation Blade Runner here.)

The Fifth Estate documentary will likely explore all of this in much greater detail. Court files for Brown and Legge, who is in federal custody in Utah and has not entered a plea, have already been unsealed.

The unsealed affidavit in the case of Brown, who was profiled in Rolling Stone this summer, offers few new details on his arrest, other than this quote: “Lindsay-Brown stated that: “Morally, there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing. It’s pot and that’s it.”

No hearing has been set CBC’s motion to unseal.

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