Tough sentences handed down for ‘one-woman criminal enterprise,’ union leader who misused dues

Judges handed down tough sentences Tuesday for two women convicted of separate white-collar crimes.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 7:22 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 28, 2023 at 8:58 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Judges handed down tough sentences Tuesday for two women convicted of separate white-collar crimes.

One of them conspired to rig a union election.

The other was convicted of what a federal judge called a staggering career of theft.

Leihinahina Sullivan set up a nonprofit on Kauai, offering tax and college scholarship help, but ended up stealing refunds, scholarships, and IDs she used to drain credit and bank accounts.

Prosecutors said she scammed over $3 million from at least 19 victims.

Prosecutors described Sullivan as a “one-woman criminal enterprise” whose crimes and obstruction continued even after she was charged.

They wanted a 26-year sentence to ensure she couldn’t victimize anyone else.

Former FBI agent and white-collar investigator Tom Simon said that was a big ask for a nonviolent, non-drug related crime. “I can’t remember the government taking a position that aggressive for a white-collar criminal since Bernie Madoff,” Simon said.

Not only did Judge Michael Seabright call Sullivan’s list of crimes “staggering and driven by unrelenting greed,” he agreed she lied, coerced witnesses, and manipulated the courts after being charged. Prosecutors argued that should significantly impact her sentence.

“If you continue to lie and subvert the legal process after you’ve pled guilty and really calls the honesty of your acceptance of responsibility into serious question,” Simon said.

“The judge would be right to consider that in his sentencing.”

Seabright said Sullivan’s lack of remorse or acceptance of responsibility made her likely to reoffend.

“You will continue criminal conduct after you are released ... I see that as almost inevitable,” Seabright said, although he disagreed with the prosecutor’s request for 26 years.

He sentenced the 51-year-old to 17 years in prison — four more than Katherine Kealoha — whom she met in detention. She was also ordered to pay $3.4 million restitution.

Also sentenced Tuesday afternoon was Marilyn Ahakuelo, 59, who helped her husband Brian rig the union election for IBEW local 1260. The two lived lavishly off union members’ dues.

Leroy Chincio, who replaced Brian Ahakuelo as the union’s business manager, was there hoping for a tough sentence. “Throw away the key, that’s what we would say, throw away the key.

When asked about Brian, he said, “Brian? Bury the key.”

Although Ahakuelo said she was “sorry for everything that impacted anyone,” Judge Helen Gillmor noted that Ahakuelo claimed to play only a clerical role while earning $10,000 a month, bought a Mercedes after being indicted and didn’t apologize to “hard-working union people.”

She sentenced Ahakuelo to five years and 10 months to pay a $10,000 fine and about $12,000 in fees and restitution.

Chincio seemed satisfied.

“She mentioned her family, on the hardship on her family,” he said.

“Let me tell you about my union family that they wen’ screw over, and that’s what we worried about, and that’s what took the jerk and now’s the time she’s going to have to pay the price.”

Gillmor will also sentence Brian Ahakuelo, who she ordered into custody after the jury convicted him and his wife. He must surrender to prison in May.