A federal indictment has been filed after a three-year investigation of a former electrical union boss and two family members who worked under him. It’s a case Always Investigating has been following for years involving Brian Ahakuelo and the IBEW Local 1260.
The grand jury charges come after some in the IBEW Local 1260 flagged spending irregularities, their international headquarters got involved and alerted the feds to what they found. A joint state-federal investigation ensued.
The indictment charges former business manager Brian Ahakuelo, his wife Marilyn Ahakuelo, and Brian’s sister-in-law Jennifer Estencion with a combined 70 counts including conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud and embezzlement. All worked for the union.
The indictment alleges the conspiracy spanned more than 5 years. The feds allege Brian stacked the board with inexperienced but loyal officers, thereby getting autonomy over union money to spend on excess wages, personal travel and other illicit expenses. The union went from a $700,000 surplus in 2010 to a $700,000 deficit by 2014.
The three indicted, along with others according to the indictment, falsified results of a member vote in order to hike dues. This involved false meeting minutes and faked attendance records. The feds say the union raked in $3.7 million more from the increase
The individuals indicted have not been part of the union for many years. Local 1260 was placed under trusteeship in 2016 and came under new local management in 2017.
IBEW local 1260 told Always Investigating in a statement today: “This union is stronger than ever, built on trust, transparency and accountability. IBEW Local 1260 is proud of the fine work of its members and the unity, strength and hard work they display day-in and day-out.”
In May 2016 the local union was placed under mainland IBEW trusteeship over what the parent union called “financial misconduct” by Brian Ahakuelo. He was put on leave while IBEW auditors flagged things such as personal expenses connected to no legitimate union business, unauthorized paid leave, and trips to Las Vegas, Miami and the East Coast among other allegations.
What the parent union’s auditor’s found led to several federal agencies launching their own investigations and seizing financial records.
Ahakuelo told KHON2 this at the time: “I need to make sure that I am not painted out to be a demon, because I have not done anything wrong. anything. Everything I’ve done was for the members. always for the members.”
Brian Ahakuelo and relatives have not yet responded to requests for comment. Besides the indictments, sources say several others have made plea deals after cooperating with authorities. We will follow up on any future filings related to this case.
The indictments are the culmination of work by federal agencies including the IRS criminal unit, U.S. Attorney, state Attorney General’s office and Department of Justice Tax Division.
Local 1260 represents more than 3,200 utility, broadcast, maintenance and contract workers in Hawaii, Guam and Wake Island.