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Ex-IBEW Business Manager Charged In Corruption Case

Casey Harlow/HPR
Kenji Price, U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii, speaks to reporters Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, on charges against former union executive Brian Ahakuelo and members of his family.

Updated: Aug. 24, 8:28 a.m.

A former Hawaii union executive and two of his family members are facing federal corruption charges. 

Prosecutors yesterday charged 55-year-old Brian Ahakuelo, ex-business manager of the IBEW Local 1260, with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.

His wife, Marilyn Ahakuelo, 55, and sister-in-law Jennifer Estencion, 52, were charged on similar counts.

According to authorities, between 2011 and 2016, the Ahakuelos conspired to divert funds and property from the electrical workers union for their own personal use.

The indictment also charges Brian Ahakuelo hired family members at inflated salaries. Prosecutors further say he authorized the purchase of a Toyota Tacoma and used union funds for personal travel and dining.

U.S. Attorney Kenji Price also says Ahakuelo rigged a union election when funds ran low.

“Then after running Local 1260’s $700,000 budget surplus down to a $700,000 deficit, defendant Brian Ahakuelo proposed a resolution to raise union dues by around 100%," Price said. "When he didn’t have the votes to get the resolution passed, he and his two co-defendants rigged a union vote to change the results. In particular, they falsified minutes and sign-in sheets from a membership meeting, and prepared fake ballots indicating members voted in favor of the resolution when they actually did not.”

Four other individuals are facing misdemeanor conspiracy charges.

If convicted on all charges against them, the Ahakuelos face decades in prison time.

HPR reached out to Brian Ahakuelo’s attorney, but did not receive an immediate reply.

IBEW issued a statement Saturday saying it welcomed the announcement of an indictment in the case.

"In 2016, upon discovering irregularities in both local union spending and in the procedures surrounding a controversial dues increase, IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson placed Local 1260 under trusteeship and moved to return roughly $3.75 million to Local 1260’s members," the union stated in a news release.

IBEW alerted authorities to potentially criminal behavior by Local 1260 leaders, the union said, and launched an investigation of its own that ended with expulsion of those indicted. Local 1260 is now on "firm financial footing with duly elected officers," IBEW stated.

Ahakuelo Indictment

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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