Authorities outline ‘shocking’ fraud, money laundering case against ex-union head
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four former and current members of the electrical workers union were charged Friday with conspiracy for allegedly rigging votes to raise membership dues as part of the massive fraud and money laundering case against ex-labor leader Brian Ahakuelo.
Michael Brittain, Daniel Rose, Lee Ann Miyamura, and Russell Yamanoha, who is now a spokesman for Honolulu’s rail project, are accused of falsifying the results of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 vote in January 2015.
In court documents, federal authorities said the four traveled to Guam to attend a membership meeting in which a resolution to increase dues on members would be considered.
“They falsified minutes and sign-in sheets for a membership meeting and prepared fake ballots indicating that members voted in favor of the resolution when they actually did not,” said U.S. Attorney for Hawaii Kenji Price, who outlined the case against Ahakuelo, his wife Marilyn and sister-in-law Jennifer Estencion in a news conference Friday.
In a grand jury indictment unsealed a day earlier, federal authorities alleged that Ahakuelo and his relatives rigged the vote to replenish funds that they had siphoned off from the union earlier.
The complaint filed Friday alleges Brittain, Rose, Miyamura and Yamanoha met in a hotel conference room in January 2015 to prepare fake ballots with “yes” votes.
Federal investigators said Brittain and Rose then allegedly replaced the real ballots with the fake ones. The real ones were thrown away in a park next to their hotel, prosecutors said.
The dues increase led members to pay an additional $3.7 million to the union over 18 months, creating hardships for union members, federal authorities said.
“It was very shocking. It kind of baffled me to ... look at my paycheck and see there was a slight chunk missing because they doubled our dues,” said former union member and news cameraman Dustin Malama. “It feels validating to see that justice is going to be served in this matter.”
Federal authorities said the alleged vote fraud helped enable Ahakuelo and members of his family enrich themselves.
They also alleged Ahakuelo misused union funds, living a lavish lifestyle on the dues of the union’s members. He was ousted three years ago after the union was placed under trusteeship.
Yamanoha is expected to plead guilty on misdemeanor charges next month under a plea deal.
Ahakuelo, who now lives on the mainland, could not be reached.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and five years for the conspiracy and embezzlement charges.
Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.