EZjet boss ditches lawyer, hires specialist criminal firm

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EZjet boss ditches lawyer, hires specialist criminal firm

Unread post by bimjim » Wed May 15, 2013

http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2013/ ... inal-firm/

EZjet boss ditches lawyer, hires specialist criminal firm
May 15, 2013

Two weeks after a Florida court refused him his pre-trial freedom, owner of EZjet Airways, Sonny Ramdeo, has fired his lawyer.

It will be the latest legal twist in the case of the flamboyant Ramdeo, formerly of Windsor Forest who migrated to the United States years ago and is now facing fraud charges for allegedly stealing more than US$20M from a US hospital chain and using some of the proceeds to prop up the operations of EZjet, a low-cost airline he founded in 2011 to fly the New York/Georgetown route. He remains in custody.

Ramdeo was arrested late last year after reportedly hiding from FBI agents who were hot on his trail. He was caught after agents, monitoring his phone calls, tracked him to a Brooklyn basement in which he was staying. The room he was found in, according to US prosecutors, was disguised to look like a storeroom.

On Monday, Ramdeo filed a motion for Valentin Rodriguez, his lawyer, to be replaced by another firm called Funk, Szachacz & Diamond, LLC. It was granted by the Court of the Southern District of Florida. The law firm specializes in criminal trials, post-conviction and appellate litigation.
Last month, the same court denied Ramdeo bail, saying that it was not convinced that he would not flee while awaiting trial. He has dual citizenship – Guyana and the United States.

The case is generating lots of interest not only for the amount of money that prosecutors say he stole but because of the high profile role played by Ramdeo in bringing the low-cost airline to Guyana. It has also brought out secret emails between the executive and a senior EZjet official, Dheeraj Gayaram, which were also tendered as evidence.

According to the emails sent between November 16 and 21, last, Ramdeo was accusing Gayaram of taking US$45,000 from EZjet’s accounts and, without authorization, using some of it to pay staffers and stranded passengers. Ramdeo, who appeared to be in hiding at the time of the emails, accused Gayaram of sending FBI agents to his relatives.

Gayaram, a well known Guyanese dancer based in New York, also admitted in the emails that he was forced to hand over evidence to FBI agents who were investigating Ramdeo for fraud. He accused Ramdeo of remaining in hiding, leaving him to “face the heat”.

Dheeraj was a critical figure in EZjet from its startup in December 2011, appearing in several promotions and even hosting a number of TV programmes locally.

The emails also suggested that Ramdeo structured EZjet in a manner which left its Guyana subsidiary, EZjet GT Inc., with no assets.

Ramdeo’s legal woes riveted Guyana last year after his months-old airline venture fell from the sky. The low-cost charter was started in December 2011 amidst much fanfare in Guyana. But there were questions by players in the industry who wanted to know the source of his funding. Ramdeo had said the monies came from his savings and mortgage taken from his Florida home.

The airline was flying the Georgetown/New York route and had introduced flights to Canada and Trinidad as well.

But the seeming success crashed late last year after Promise Healthcare, a hospital chain for which Ramdeo was managing the payroll, claimed he stole over $20M starting in 2005.

Ramdeo, according to court documents, disappeared after an audit and in November 2012, the US Department of Transportation suspended EZjet after the plane company which operated the flights, claimed he owed them hundreds of thousands of dollars. The suspension left hundreds of passengers stranded in Guyana, the US, Canada and Trinidad.

Court documents claimed Ramdeo created a payroll company and made it appear, using fake emails, as if it was a legit one with links to another similar, established one that had been doing business with the hospital chain.

Prosecutors said that Ramdeo appeared to be moving thousands of dollars around, instructing staffers to make payments and deposits in a manner and amounts that would not have raised the curiosity of the US authorities. They are still investigating where the monies that the accountant allegedly stole is hidden.

Ramdeo is facing several charges of wire fraud and money laundering and could be jailed up to 90 years if found guilty.

EZjet, since being suspended last year by Guyana, US, Canada and Trinidad, has stopped operations.

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