It's been quite a fall for Romeo Halloun. Gone are the Uzi submachine guns, the baskets of no-questions-asked money, the $60,000 cars and the swagger that comes with being the biggest thug on the block.

Halloun, a 30ish son of a wealthy trader in smuggled goods, sits in a U.S. Army detention cell here, representative of a short-lived class of Haitians notable for their audacity and, in the minds of many people, their stupidity.They were a group of mostly young Haitians who, not content merely to enjoy the money their families had made over the years in their largely illicit businesses, had attached themselves to the Haitian military after the September 1991 coup that overthrew populist President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

They had money, sometimes millions of dollars. They had guns and drugs, they had fancy cars and big homes, and the power that came with being the favorites of the most brutal and corrupt military in the region.

They were members of what American diplomats and journalists called the Morally Repugnant Elite, or MREs - a group previously reserved for Haiti's old and rich business sector.

What they didn't seem to have was the common sense to realize that they had hitched themselves to a star that would flame out in the long run.

Their time was up on Sept. 19, when the first of nearly 20,000 U.S. troops landed here and put an end to the reign of the killers and looters who passed themselves off as Haiti's army.

Among the first to fall was Halloun, who was arrested when he and a cousin, Patrick Mourra, tried to pass through an American Army roadblock. U.S. troops arrested them after realizing they were listed as possible criminal suspects both in Haiti and the United States and after finding several automatic weapons in their car.

A couple of dozen other MREs today share the detention facilities with Halloun and Mourra, waiting to see if some, Halloun and Mourra among them, will be sent to the United States for prosecution or held until the Haitian judicial system is rebuilt and they can be tried here.

Others have followed the lead of their masters - former army commander in chief Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, chief of staff Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby and Port-au-Prince Police Chief Michel Francois - and fled the country.

But most have stayed, some even hoping that last week's restoration of Aristide is a passing inconvenience. Others protest their innocence or have turned informer, while still others have fallen into despair and bankruptcy.

Many MREs live in constant terror of retribution from the ordinary Haitians who suffered under the military regime.

How could MREs have misjudged so badly?

"They were blinded by the money, the power," said an associate of one. "And their hatred of Aristide was so strong they couldn't believe anyone would help him."