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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jul. 11, 202211:07 AM EST

Former JEA executives federal trial remains set for May 1, 2023

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Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher face federal charges of wire fraud and conspiracy.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The trial in the federal wire fraud and conspiracy trial of former JEA executives Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher remains set for May 1, 2023. 

The men are accused for their roles in the abandoned attempt to sell the city-owned utility in 2019.

Court minutes filed July 5 following a status conference early that day show the intent by U.S. District Judge Brian Davis to keep the trial date he previously stated in a June 17 order.

The minutes state Zahn and Wannemacher’s attorneys are “directed to file a motion with the Court regarding the specific relief sought as discussed on the record, if necessary. This case remains set for the trial term commencing on May 1, 2023, at 9:00 a.m.”

Zahn’s attorneys told Davis during the status conference at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse Downtown they may ask the court for more time to complete document discovery because of the amount of material produced by the federal government’s investigation.

Wannemacher’s legal team indicated at the conference it should be able to finish its document work without an extension. 

All pretrial motions are expected to be filed by September, but that could be extended by request at the discretion of Davis.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tysen Duva said in an April 19 court appearance that the two-year federal grand jury investigation into the JEA sale produced 30 subpoenas for statements and documents and 23 witnesses testified

Duva said Florida Power & Light Co. and its parent company, NextEra Energy Inc., the highest bidder to buy JEA, were among those subpoenaed.

The federal indictment, issued March 2, alleges Zahn, JEA’s former managing director and CEO, and Wannemacher, the utility’s former CFO, worked together to devise a Long-Term Performance Unit Plan that would have paid them and other JEA executives and “certain others ”at least $345 million in bonuses had the utility been sold.

The utility issued an invitation to negotiate in October 2019 to private companies and organizations to sell the municipal utility. 

Ultimately, after information began to develop about the PUP and the bonuses that would have been paid, the JEA board of directors stopped the sale process Dec. 24, 2019.

Memos from the City Council Auditor’s Office in late 2019 and an independent Council investigation in 2020 showed the bonuses payouts could have been nearly $1 billion.

Duva told the court that spreadsheets about the bonus plan were found as part of the government’s investigation and not from immunized testimony.

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