CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — Federal authorities arrested an Austin man March 20 after he landed a plane carrying 230 pounds of hydroponic marijuana at the Llano Municipal Airport, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Wayne Douglas Brunet, 64, faces a charge of felony possession with intent to distribute marijuana.
Officials said the incident unfolded in the midst of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
According to an arrest affidavit, air traffic authorities initially tracked the pilot’s “suspicious flight pattern” March 19 from Medford, Oregon, to Texas.
Investigators then surveilled the plane’s activity within Texas, which included aborted landing attempts in Bulverde and Lago Vista as the suspect spotted law enforcement on the ground.
The plane eventually landed sometime before midnight March 19 at the Llano airport, the report stated.
“Upon bringing the subject aircraft to a stop, (the) defendant was observed quickly exiting the subject aircraft and throwing a large duffle bag and his cellular phone into a grassy area near the … runway,” according to a federal affidavit.
Authorities searched and found 14 more duffle bags “with an undisclosed number of vacuum-sealed packages containing a green leafy substance (consistent) with marijuana,” the affidavit continued.
Investigators said the pilot attempted to flee but was apprehended on the tarmac by agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety Air Unit and the Llano County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers seized the illegal drugs and about $6,000 in cash. Authorities stated there were no other occupants of the plane.
If convicted of the drug charge, Brunet faces between five and 40 years in federal prison.
He remains in federal custody and is scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate March 23.
During the course of the investigation, several agencies, including the Horseshoe Bay Police Department and the Blanco County Sheriff’s Office, either assisted directly or remained on stand-by at their respective municipal airports.