Tuesday, February 23, 1999

Isle lawyer who
invested for drug dealers
makes tearful apology

By Debra Barayuga


A Honolulu attorney charged with conspiring to launder drug proceeds to finance an outpatient surgery clinic on Maui has tearfully apologized to the court, the community, his family and friends for betraying their trust.

"I'm so sorry for what I did," Richard Frunzi said yesterday to a courtroom packed with acquaintances and family members. "This journey has taken me to the bottom."

U.S. District Judge David Ezra yesterday sentenced Frunzi to five years in federal prison without the possibility of parole, followed by three years of supervised release. Frunzi was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

Ezra said he hoped the sentence sends a message to anyone who holds the public trust "that no one is above the law, and if you do violate it, you will be subject to equal justice in this courtroom."

The sentence reflects the seriousness of Frunzi's conduct but took into consideration his cooperation, Ezra said.

There was "clear and convincing evidence" that Frunzi knew that the funds he accepted from drug dealers John Bowley and William Batkin were drug proceeds, and that he had lied to officials and a federal grand jury and later admitted his dishonesty, Ezra said.

Frunzi knew he was violating the law and the consequences, but "greed overtook you, and you succumbed to the temptation of cash," Ezra said.

"It dishonors the profession and weakens the people's confidence in the system of justice, at a time where the system is under great test," he said.

Frunzi pleaded guilty in 1997 to accepting $410,000 from Bowley and Batkin and arranging for the money to be invested in the clinic.

Bowley and Batkin earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute crystal methamphetamine and cocaine to the Frank Moon drug empire. Bowley was sentenced to more than nine years in prison and Batkin is awaiting sentencing. Moon was sentenced to 71/2 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg called the court's sentence "fair and appropriate," saying he hoped lawyers and businesspeople -- when approached by drug dealers for help -- should "send them packing."

"(Frunzi) ignored that, and for that, he needs to go to jail," Silverberg said.

Phil Lowenthal, Frunzi's attorney, said his client used "terrible judgment" and has lost nearly everything -- his law practice and license to practice law and real estate -- and embarrassed himself in front of his children and family. "The man's flattened," he said.

Also charged in the conspiracy was businessman and health care executive Henry Blakley, who with former state House Speaker Daniel Kihano headed Hale Nani Partners, which sought approval to build and operate the surgery center. Blakley in December was sentenced to 85 months.

Kihano was investigated but not charged. He was subsequently prosecuted federally and is serving two years for stealing more than $27,000 from his campaign funds.

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