Former union leader, family members used union as ‘personal piggy bank’

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Federal prosecutors say as business manager of IBEW Local Lodge 1260, Brian Ahakuelo put five family members on the union’s payroll at six-figure salaries.

They also allege he used $80,000 in union money to buy a first-class trip to Japan in 2015 for his relatives and friends.

After years of delays, former union leader accused of embezzling funds to go to court

“The Ahakuelos used Local 1260 as their personal piggy bank,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William KeAupuni Akina said.

The personal dealings allegations were highlighted on the first day of the union bribery trial against Ahakuelo, his wife Marilyn Ahakuelo and his sister-in-law Jennifer Estencion, who were charged with 70 counts of fraud, embezzlement funds and conspiracy.

Federal authorities also allege that Ahakuelo, with the help of IBEW staffers like former sports broadcaster Russell Yamanoha, rigged a union vote in 2015 to raise dues.

“Union corruption is not new. But the real victims here are the union workers who have their dues taken away from them to spend on fancy homes in Kaua’i and first-class plane tickets and nepotism,” said the former FBI special agent and private investigator Tom Simon.

Ahakuelo’s lawyers said the IBEW’s international parent company, not the local union, rigged the votes and the union leader and those close to him worked hard to win the benefits.

His lawyer said the benefits were also necessary to impress people who do business with the union.

“It’s like seeing a realtor who drives a BMW and not one who drives a Pinto,” attorney Louis Ching said.

The trial continues next week.

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