Hawaii is the Aloha State, but union members of IBEW Local 1260 are not singing a happy tune: A jury found a former union leader guilty of fraud, money laundering, and embezzlement by misusing union dues.
Brian Ahakuelo, a former union business manager and financial secretary, was found guilty of 68 charges to fund an extravagant and lavish lifestyle for himself and his family members. Marilyn Ahakuelo, Brian’s wife, was found guilty of 46 similar charges. Brian Ahakuelo placed five of his family members on union payroll, where each earned a six-figure salary, and used $80,000 in union dues to fund travel to Japan.
A federal prosecutor said, “The Ahakuelos used Local 1260 as their personal piggy bank” and rigged a union vote to raise dues. The Department of Justice’s press release noted that “little legitimate work was performed” and the rigged vote cost union members “an additional $3.7 million in dues over approximately eighteen months.”
Ahakuelos’ lawyers claimed that the expenses were necessary for business purposes and, regarding the rigged vote, blamed the international parent union for vote-rigging.
IBEW’s statement said that the convictions brought “closure” for Local 1260 members:
“The recent convictions of Brian and Marilyn Ahakuelo have finally rendered justice for IBEW Local 1260 while bringing about closure for its members. While the verdicts were swift, the case and the process have been years in the making with countless delays and rescheduling. Mahalo to the jury, prosecution team, the IBEW, and everyone who stepped up, for their dedication to ensuring that justice be served.”
Brian Ahakuelo will be detained in custody until sentencing in March 2023, while Marilyn Ahakuelo was released on bail. The Ahakuelos could face decades of prison time based on federal sentencing guidelines.
Corruption in labor unions is not new; United Auto Workers’ (UAW) infamous corruption scandal in 2021 led to two former presidents and a total of 16 union officials being charged of embezzlement and other related charges. One of the former presidents embezzled over $1.5 million for private villas, cigars, and alcohol, while another union official embezzled $2 million to fund his gambling habit and taste for expensive clothing. Unions should be transparent about the use of dues, which is why Americans for Fair Treatment offers detailed breakdowns of how union dues are spent on our website.