Rail spokesman pleads guilty to conspiracy charge linked to his time at union

Updated: Sep. 3, 2019 at 5:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Russell Yamanoha, a former sportcaster who now serves as spokesman for the rail authority, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to a misdemeanor conspiracy charge linked to his time at an embattled Hawaii union.

Yamanoha admitted he and three current and former workers at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 rigged a union vote in 2015 to increase membership dues.

“I think he definitely feels a great deal of remorse but he is intending tell the truth about everything and he looks forward to that opportunity," said Yamanoha’s attorney, Michael Healy.

As part of a plea deal, Yamanoha agreed to testify against his ex-boss ― former IBEW 1260 business manager Brian Ahakuelo ― who along with his wife and sister-in-law were indicted last month on 70 counts of embezzlement and wire fraud. The Ahakuelos have pleaded not guilty.

[Read more: Authorities outline ‘shocking’ fraud, money laundering case against ex-union head]

Yamanoha could face up to a year behind bars, but will likely see little time because of his cooperation with prosecutors.

In court, assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Albanese outlined the federal government’s case against Yamanoha. Albanese said Yamanoha and current and former IBEW staffers Michael Brittain, Lee Ann Miyamura and Daniel Rose flew to Guam in January 2015 to oversee a membership vote.

Albanese said all four went to the Guam Hilton and filled out fake ballots in favor of raising membership dues. He said Rose then replaced the real ballots cast by members with the fake ballots they filled out. Rose then destroyed the real ballots, Albanese said.

The proposal to increase dues, which initially didn’t have enough votes, was approved due to the fake ballots, Albanese said.

Yamanoha was released after he posted a $10,000 bond. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Despite the guilty plea, the rail authority said Tuesday that there “is no change” in his status.

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