Breaking Bad in Hawaii? Prosecutors say Kauai councilman ran crystal meth ring

A county councilman who federal prosecutors say secretly ran a methamphetamine ring in between his civic duties pleaded not guilty Friday to running a covert gun and drug smuggling ring.

Arthur Brun, 48, was charged with drug trafficking, obstruction and firearms charges in a multi-count federal indictment unsealed this week.

Prosecutors say Brun, better known as “Ata” to his drug accomplices, was a sitting member of the Kauai County Council and served as the vice chairman of its Public Safety & Human Services Committee, according to the indictment.

This October 2019 booking photo provided by the Kauai Police Department shows Kauai County Councilman Arthur Brun, who was arrested Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 on drug and other charges. In October 2019, Kauai police pulled Brun over in a traffic stop after he was seen receiving meth from a gang leader, prosecutors said. U.S. prosecutors say Brun ran a meth ring while serving as an elected Kauai councilman and should be held without bail.

“At the same time that he held this position of public trust, Brun led a drug trafficking organization that distributed substantial amounts of methamphetamine,” prosecutors wrote.

Brun’s ring hooked up with a drug group called the United Samoan Organization that operates both inside and outside of the Hawaiian prison system, the indictment alleges.

The indictment portrays Brun as a free-wheeling, fast-living drug lord who supplied guns to gang members and requested sexual favors as payment for drugs. At one point, he led police on a car chase that culminated with Brun eventually chucking a pound of meth out the car window in order to elude capture, the indictment claims.

Brun is charged along with 11 other defendants in a case that U.S. Attorney for Hawaii Kenji Price “sends a very clear message to those who hold a position of trust in Hawaii, and that message is you are not above the law. Neither position nor privilege will shield you from the accountability that justice requires.”

Brun “sometimes requested sexual favors as repayment for drugs he supplied,” prosecutors said in a motion asking for bail to be denied. They cited phone wiretaps and testimony by a defendant who is hoping for leniency at sentencing in a federal case.

Crystal meth, known locally as “batu” or “ice,” gained a stronghold across the islands long before becoming popular on the U.S. mainland. Mailing or shipping drugs to Hawaii became more common with increased airport security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it got more difficult to smuggle drugs through air travel.

Court documents say Brun arranged with a co-defendant to purchase a pound of meth to be mailed from California for $9,000. The appetite for the drug is so strong, it’s street value in Hawaii can be more than double that amount.

Brun abused drugs himself, prosecutors said.

In October, Kauai police pulled Brun over in a traffic stop after he was seen receiving meth from the gang leader, prosecutors said. As a lieutenant’s arm was inside the vehicle trying to take the keys out of the ignition, the car sped off, injuring the officer’s arm. During a high-speed chase, Brun threw the pound of meth out of his window, prosecutors said.

In the motion for no bail, prosecutors included transcripts of some of Brun’s intercepted calls, where he speaks in Pidgin, Hawaii’s creole language. In one conversation cited in the motion, he mentions injuring the officer. “Was his fault he got hurt, the (expletive) stuck his arm in the car, what he expect,” he told an unknown male.

Brun was on pretrial release from that arrest when he crossed a center line while driving on Kauai on Feb. 7 and hit a pickup truck, injuring a six-year-old boy and a man, prosecutors said.

He remained seated in a wheelchair during Friday’s hearing because of injuries from that crash, said his court-appointed attorney, Rustam Barbee.

Contributing: Associated Press

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