Prosecutors: Former labor leader, family members used union as ‘personal piggy bank’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal prosecutors said that as IBEW Local 1260′s business manager, Brian Ahakuelo put five of his family members on the union’s payroll at six-figure salaries.
They also allege that he used $80,000 in union money to purchase first-class travel to Japan in 2015 for his relatives and friends.
“The Ahakuelos used Local 1260 as their personal piggy bank,” said Assistant U. S. Attorney William KeAupuni Akina.
The allegations of self dealing were highlighted in the opening day of the union corruption trial against Ahakuelo, his wife Marilyn Ahakuelo and his sister-in-law Jennifer Estencion, who were charged with 70 counts of fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy.
Federal authorities also allege that Ahakuelo, with the help of IBEW staffers like ex-sports broadcaster Russell Yamanoha, rigged a union vote in 2015 to raise membership dues.
“Union graft is nothing new. But the real victims here are the union workers who have their dues taken from them to be spent on luxurious homes in Kaua’i and first-class plane tickets and nepotism,” said former FBI Special Agent and private investigator Tom Simon.
Ahakuelo lawyers said that the IBEW’s international parent, and not the local union, rigged the votes and that the union leader and his relatives worked hard to earn the perks.
His attorney said the perks were also needed to impress people who do business with the union.
“It’s like seeing a Realtor who drives a BMW not one who drives a Pinto,” said lawyer Louis Ching.
The trial continues next week.
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