Verdicts reached; Zahn found guilty, Wannemacher not guilty in JEA trial

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UPDATE Friday 4:38 p.m.: Verdicts have been reached in the trial of Ryan Wannemacher and Aaron Zahn. Zahn has been found guilty and Wannemacher not guilty in the JEA trial of the former executives.

Zahn was found guilty on both counts. Count one is conspiracy to embezzle and steal municipal funds and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and count 2 is wire fraud and livestream of JEA Board meeting. Assistant United States Attorney A. Tysen Duva said he now faces five years for conspiracy and 20 years for wire fraud.

Zahn is not being taken into custody at this moment.

Action News Jax Ben Becker received this statement from Mayor Donna Deegan concerning the verdicts:

“I’m glad justice was served. As has been said, this was one of the greatest schemes to defraud the taxpayers in the history of Jacksonville. During the trial, we heard a lot about the type of behavior that we don’t want to see in our government ever again. JEA will always stay in public hands as long as I’m mayor.”

—  Mayor Donna Deegan

JEA also issued a statement after the verdicts were reached:

“The trial reinforced at least one key fact: The value of JEA is, and has always been, based on the incredible work of its employees. JEA is proud to be a community-owned utility and will continue to focus on serving our Northeast Florida customers and community every day, as it has since 1895.

We are grateful for the dedication and commitment of the members of both juries, who considered a tremendous amount of evidence and delivered a just verdict consistent with that evidence. At JEA, we remain committed to integrity, respect, and transparency in all that we do. The actions of a former CEO do not reflect our organization or our values. We appreciate the efforts of all who assisted in delivering this outcome, and we look forward to putting this matter behind us while we focus on moving forward to serve our community.”

—  JEA statement

FBI Jacksonville on the verdict in the JEA trial:

“Fraud and corruption pose a fundamental threat to our national security and our way of life, and the FBI will not tolerate those who seek to deceive American citizens. As a taxpayer, you are entitled to decisions based on the public’s best interest, and we take very seriously our responsibility to investigate and aggressively pursue individuals who attempt to defraud publicly funded institutions in a selfish effort to line their pocketbooks. FBI Jacksonville is fully committed to ensuring that anyone who violates the public’s trust is held accountable. In coordination with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to seek consequences that deter others from engaging in deceptive schemes.”

—  Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Dargis, FBI Jacksonville

Action News Jax’s Ben Becker also reached out to former Mayor Lenny Curry for a statement on the verdicts, but he hasn’t gotten a response.

UPDATE Thursday 5:30 p.m.: The jury in Aaron Zahn’s case will be released at 5:30 p.m. It was just announced that the jury in Ryan Wannemacher’s case has been released as well.

The judge has decided to seal the first verdict for Aaron Zahn until both verdicts are decided.

ORIGINAL: Jurors are scheduled to begin deliberations on Thursday morning in the trial of 2 former JEA executives.


Both men could face decades in prison for allegedly conspiring to steal in connection to the sale of the utility.

Closing arguments finished up on Wednesday afternoon, and federal prosecutors hammered down on Aaron Zahn, saying he had plans to make millions on the sale of JEA from the start and said that he then roped Wannemacher into it, making him equally guilty.

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The defense argued that these men were proposing a legitimate business idea.

Zahn’s jury will return at 9 a.m. for deliberations. Wannemacher’s jury will return at 9:30 a.m. This is a unique case where each jury will deliberate separately and return 2 verdicts. Both men face up to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors also argued that Zahn was “alarming employees,” and he stated the “worst case scenario presented as fact” when it came to the future worth of the utility company.

Prosecutors said the sale wasn’t Wannemacher’s idea, but he went along with it. They said he was the “math guy” and had “so many outs.” They claim Zahn was trying to sell the utility, make $40 million and “walk out the back door.”

Read: JEA Trial: Closing arguments set to begin Wednesday

Zahn’s defense attorney said Zahn believed JEA was a healthy company, but some factors could hurt the utility, like the popularity of solar, which is why he presented the idea to sell in the first place.

Both men have maintained their innocence.

Action News Jax will be back in the courtroom to update you as jurors get their instructions and will then wait for a verdict.

Read: JEA Trial: Defense for former JEA executives could start calling witnesses

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