Former IBEW Local 1260 business manager Brian Ahakuelo has been charged in a massive 70-count indictment. (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal grand jury has returned a massive fraud and embezzlement indictment against a former Hawaii union leader and members of his family.
The 70-count indictment filed Thursday charges Brian Ahakuelo, his wife Marilyn Ahakuelo and his sister-in-law Jennifer Estencion.
Ahakuelo lead the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1260 until he was ousted three years ago after the union was placed under trusteeship.
The federal investigation centers on lavish salaries and perks, and embezzling union funds.
According to the indictment, the Ahakuelos made thousands of dollars in unauthorized purchases on their union credit cards for travel to Las Vegas and Virginia.
Federal authorities say he also misused union funds to buy a Toyota Tacoma for his wife and hired his son-in-law for $29,000 as a training coordinator for a training program that did not exist.
“Our office will aggressively investigate and prosecute corruption in unions ... that abuse the trust vested in them by the hard working folks in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Kenji Price.
“If your job is to protect the hard-working men and women in our communities, then do that. If you use use your position to corruptly line your own pockets or serve other corrupt interests, we will use all of our resources to hold you accountable.”
The indictment also alleges that Ahakuelo falsified votes on membership dues increases taken by several of the unions units in 2015. Those votes doubled the dues from 1.5 to 3%.
That increase led members to pay an additional $3.7 million in dues over 18 months, federal authorities said.
Federal authorities said Ahakuelo, Estencion and several other union officials did that by adding fake ballots in voting conducted by Local 1260′s Guam office in January 2015.
Investigators say the unauthorized spending depleted the union’s funds.
After Ahakuelo became Local 1260′s business manager in 2011, its bank accounts went from a surplus of about $700,000 to a deficit about $700,000 four years later, the indictment said..