After years of delays, former union leader accused of misusing funds to head to trial
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three years after his arrest, a former union leader accused of corruption will finally get his day in court this week.
The feds have charged former IBEW Local 1260 leader Brian Ahakuelo and his relatives with 70 counts of fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and embezzlement for misusing on union funds to pay for lavish salaries and perks.
He’s also accused of rigging union votes to increase dues to pay for those salaries and benefits.
“This one is just outright blatant,” said retired Honolulu Police Deputy Chief John McCarthy. “It wasn’t even tricky or fancy. He just outright enriched himself and wasn’t very complex in the way he did it.”
Legal experts said the case against the former union boss Ahakuelo is all about greed.
“It’s sad. I mean you think about it, that someone would stoop so low and really hurt their fellow worker,” said retired Circuit Judge and former Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee.
The trial has been delayed nearly three years largely due to COVID. During that period, Ahakuelo has been free on a $50,000 bond.
He has pleaded not guilty and plans to fight the charges.
Defense attorneys said the government will have to prove that he intended to defraud the union.
“If it was a perk, if the bylaws allowed the defendants to buy these things, keep these things use these things, then it’s not theft or fraud,” said defense lawyer Megan Kau.
The trial is expected to start this week and will take about 15 days.
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