Ezjet boss refused bail again
A Florida court on Monday refused to grant airline executive, Sonny Austin Ramdeo, his pre-trial freedom, saying that he failed to prove he would not flee afterwards.
US Magistrate Judge, Dave Lee Brannon, of the US Southern District of Florida, in his ruling explained that Ramdeo, founder of EZjet Airways which folded spectacularly last year, was ordered detained back in January because he posed a flight risk.
Ramdeo, through his lawyer, managed to push back his trial until October saying that new evidence and a number of additional charges have to be studied before a proper defence could be mounted. He has been in custody since being captured by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation late last year in a Queens, New York basement where he was reportedly hiding.
Earlier this month, the embattled, Guyanese-born airline executive in a strategic court move, filed for his pre-trial freedom, saying that he was not afforded a proper opportunity back in January to make a case for bail. However, according to Judge Brannon, the defendant did not present any new evidence which materially affected the court’s prior determination that he was a flight risk.
“Accordingly, for the reasons articulated at the initial detention hearing, and for the reasons stated in open court at the rehearing (on Monday), the court finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court and detains the defendant as a flight risk,” the judge said in his ruling.
On Monday also, several emails between Ramdeo and a senior EZjet official, Dheeraj Gayaram, were also tendered as evidence.
According to the emails sent between November 16 and 21, 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 skies when a US hospital chain which he worked for accused him of stealing more than US$20M and passing some of the monies through EZjet.
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.
But by that time, Ramdeo was in hiding.
The FBI managed to track him via calls he made from a phone. He was cornered in a New York basement in what investigators later said appeared to be locked storeroom. He gave up without a fight.
Ramdeo initially appeared before a court in New York where he agreed to be transferred to Florida to face charges of fraud.
Court documents claimed he 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, in court documents, 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.