Sordid details of B.C. gang war revealed in epic murder case judgment
Cory 'Frankie' Vallee was recently convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder
It was a bold assassination in broad daylight at a busy outdoor complex in Langley, B.C., and it took years for police to bring the killers to justice.
Kevin Leclair was shot in the driver's seat of his grey pickup truck in front of an IGA grocery store at the Thunderbird Village mall shortly after 4 p.m. on Feb. 6, 2009.
He died two days later in hospital.
Leclair had switched allegiances from one gang, the United Nations, to its rivals the notorious Bacon brothers and their allies, the Red Scorpions. He died from a shot in the back of the head, his truck sprayed with bullets from a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun.
Witnesses — there were many — described a brief but frantic scene that included armed men running between parked cars, firearms tossed aside, and a quick escape.
On June 1, Cory "Frankie" Vallee was found guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to murder for his part in the Leclair murder and a bloody turf war between the gangs.
The full 150-page judgment, posted online last week, has more characters than a Russian novel and reads like a Quentin Tarantino script. It's a rare glimpse into the life of gangsters in the Lower Mainland.
The ruling exposes a lifestyle that included bounties of up to $300,000, an international trade in cocaine and guns, and smashing a person's face with a sledgehammer as retribution for unpaid debts.
According to Justice Janice Dillon's written judgment, the UN gang first came to police attention in the late '90s. It was an agglomeration of smaller groups that dealt in the drug trade.
At its peak, the gang primarily sold marijuana in the U.S. in exchange for cocaine and guns from Mexico. Members shipped the drugs by helicopter, planes and even Canada Post.
Some high-level players made at least $15,000 per month off the drug trade. When the Bacon war ensued, UN shooters could claim a bounty of $300,000 for any of the three brothers.
Clay Roueche was the "charismatic" leader of the gang from the early 2000's until his arrest in the U.S. in May 2008, Dillon writes.
Loyalty, discipline and respect
Roueche established rules based on loyalty, discipline and respect. Those who weren't loyal paid for their sins.
After one Crown witness in the case became a police informant, gang members sprayed his parents' house with bullets and tried to burn it down. Others were "hunted" and killed.
The Crown witnesses described shooting a drug dealer in the foot for stealing marijuana and smashing someone's face with a sledge hammer over an $8,000 debt.
Those at the top of the gang were acknowledged and rewarded with specially designed rings conferred at dinner ceremonies at a Chinese restaurant.
The "Buddhist-inspired" ritual included a speech, hand gestures, and a song, according to the judgment.
Turf war begins
Dillon writes that the turf war between the UN gang and the Bacon brothers — Jonathan, Jarrod and James — began around 2006 over contested drug trade territory in the Fraser Valley.
The Bacon group had choked drug supplies to some UN dealers and beaten up street-level workers, according to the judgment.
The battle escalated when the UN shot and wounded Jonathan Bacon in September 2006. That ignited a deadly exchange between top-level gang members over the next five years.
The Bacon brothers were bad for the drug business. UN profits began to wane.
By 2008, top-level UN member Ion Kroitoru, under pressure to fix the problem, recruited 33-year-old Vallee and told others in the gang he was an expert hitman from "out east" who could find and kill the brothers.
In fact, Vallee had been living in and around North Vancouver since 2001.
Like many in the UN, Vallee's formal education ended with a high school diploma. He had worked as a grocery clerk, a bus driver and a courier delivery driver. By the time he joined the UN, he was working as a garbage collector, earning about $46,500 per year.
Vallee went by several nicknames, including Frankie, Panther, and Tooth Fairy — because of his missing front teeth. Nicknames were one of several strategies the UN used to elude police. Even gang members didn't know each others' real names.
Leclair was also a prime target for the gang. The former UN member had switched sides to join the Bacon brothers after a falling out with Roueche.
The gang knew that one of Leclair's hangouts was the Browns Social House at Thunderbird Village. Vallee and three other gang members had been driving around looking for the Bacon brothers when Leclair was spotted going into the restaurant.
Witnesses described shooters racing across the parking lot after Leclair came out, shooting at him in his pickup truck, which lurched forward and crashed halfway up a sidewalk.
Vallee left for Mexico later that year. He was arrested and returned to Canada in August 2014 and charged with conspiracy and first-degree murder in 2015.
Vallee's trial began last February. Sentencing for the charges is scheduled for June 28.