Trial of former JEA executives postponed until May 2023

Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher face federal charges of fraud and conspiracy.

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U.S. District Judge Brian Davis granted a motion made by the defense to postpone the federal wire fraud and conspiracy trial of former JEA executives Aaron Zahn and Ryan Wannemacher until May 2023.

In the order signed April 22, Davis cited the amount of evidence and the complexity of the trial as the basis of his decision.

“The parties all agree that this is a complex case involving terabytes of data (or about 120 million pages of documents), a multitude of witnesses, and forthcoming suppression and dismissal motions,” the order states.

It continues: “In light of the discovery needed, motion practice expected, and the complexity of this case, the Court finds that ‘the ends of justice served by the granting of a continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendants in a speedy trial.’”

Zahn, the former JEA CEO, and Wannemacher, the former chief financial officer, were indicted March 2 and charged with conspiring to steal and obtain by fraud money that would have been generated from the sale of the city-owned utility.

According to the indictment, Zahn and Wannemacher worked together to devise a Long-Term Performance Unit Plan that would have paid them and other JEA employees millions of dollars in bonuses had the utility been sold.

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.

The indictment charges Zahn and Wannemacher worked together to craft the PUP formula using JEA’s financial statements to ensure that they would receive millions of dollars when JEA was sold.

The indictment also alleges that Zahn and Wannemacher made material misrepresentations about and otherwise hid the true nature of the PUP from the JEA board, members of the Jacksonville City Council, other JEA executives and members of the public.