HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal grand jury has indicted the former division director for the ILWU on theft charges.
A grand jury charged Nate Lum, 61, with failing to file five years of federal income tax returns, aggravated identity theft and theft of public funds.
In the indictment unsealed last week, federal prosecutors said Lum cashed Social Security checks intended for his late father for two and a half years after his father's death in 2013.
The alleged thefts totaled more than $33,000 and occurred at a time when Lum was earning more than $200,000 as the division director for the ILWU, the union that represents about 1,000 dockworkers in Hawaii.
Lum could not be reached but last week he pleaded not guilty in federal court.
Longtime observers said that Lum was a behind-the-scenes power in Hawaii's business and political communities.
"Basically, he was in charge of the stevedores in the state and they have negotiated labor union contracts that control the flow of virtually all goods in and out of the state. So he's enormously influential," said longtime investigative reporter and author Jim Dooley.
This is not the first time Lum has been accused of financial impropriety.
In filings with the federal labor department in 2011, the ILWU disclosed that Lum made more than $24,000 in unauthorized purchases with his union credit card. He later repaid the ILWU, the union reports said.
Given the high profile nature of the case, it's likely part of a broader federal investigation and prosecutors could be seeking additional targets.
Lum's indictment also comes as federal law enforcement officials have spent years trying to crack down on alleged corruption in Honolulu's waterfront.
"They had one long running investigation involving the stevedores and the waterfront that was conducted by the FBI and HPD. It was called 'harbor rats'," said Dooley.
That racketeering investigation happened in the 1990s, when Lum was running the union. No one was charged in the probe.
Just how wide the feds are casting their net now will likely be revealed in court proceedings over the next few months.