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Pot pilot who started in Medford tried to evade capture

A Texas man who took off from Medford in March with more than 200 pounds of marijuana in his plane landed and quickly took off again at two Texas airports after spotting law enforcement officers, but was nabbed when he landed at a third airport.

Wayne Douglas Brunet, 64, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance "containing more than 50 kilograms but less than 100 kilograms of a detectable amount of marijuana" in U.S. District Court in Austin, according to court documents. Sentencing details were not immediately available, but Brunet could spend up to 20 years in prison and face up to $1 million in fines, court documents state.

The guilty plea stems from a March 19 incident, according to a federal affidavit. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the Air and Marine Operation Center, observed a 1969 Piper PA-30 Comanche airplane — referred to as the "Subject Aircraft" in the document — "with a suspicious flight pattern" that took off from Medford, the affidavit says. The aircraft did not file a flight plan but had the "apparent intention to land at the Bulverde, Texas, airport, which is unmanned."

"(The Air and Marine Operation Center) suspected that, based on the flight pattern of the Subject Aircraft and its apparent destination of a remote unmanned airport, that the Subject Aircraft was in the process of being used to smuggling (sic) narcotics, specifically hydroponic marijuana," the affidavit reads.

The plane first landed in Holbrook, Arizona to refuel before continuing on to the Bulverde airport, where DHS federal agents saw it land. While trying to meet up with him, the plane "immediately departed."

Federal officials continued to monitor the airplane, assisted by the Texas Department of Safety. They tracked it first to Lago Vista, Texas, where it attempted to land again but departed again after encountering law enforcement. At about midnight, the plane finally landed at the Llano Municipal Airport in Llano, Texas, the affidavit says. Once there, Brunet was observed throwing "a large duffel bag and his cellular phone into a grassy area" near the runway.

Brunet was detained, and federal agents found he possessed several vacuum-sealed bundles containing cannabis. They also found 14 duffel bags that contained about 237 pounds of the marijuana, also stored in vacuum-sealed bundles. Records show the airplane is registered to Brunet, the affidavit says.

How long Brunet had been in Oregon and where the cannabis came from was not available.

— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.

Pot pilot who started in Medford tried to evade capture