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Sonny Ramdeo and his EZjet venture may be about to end their short flight into infamy

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

OCTOBER 30, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS

DEAR EDITOR,
When Sonny Ramdeo, the former CEO of EZjet, announced his EZjet venture, critics immediately claimed that Sonny lacked the personal resources to fund such an enterprise and accused him of fronting for the venture’s real owner(s). Sonny responded by calling a news conference during which he asserted that he had invested his own resources, had recruited other investors, and was not fronting for anyone.
Sonny also argued that his low-fare airline venture would do well and survive. Sonny came across as an affable man with a fantastic imagination and gilded dreams, a selfless patriot who was willing to risk his own resources to operate a low-cost airline in a high-cost environment that had drained the cash and destroyed the dreams of others who seemingly possessed greater business acumen than he brought to the table. But the news conference only had the effect of intensifying the criticisms and heightening the suspicions directed at Sonny.
So when media headlines unexpectedly screamed that Sonny has been sued by his former employer for allegedly defrauding it of millions of US dollars to fund his EZjet venture, a sense of vindication overcame the many skeptics who have never believed Sonny’s claim that EZjet has been made possible by his own money. And that sense of vindication became an article of faith when Sonny himself alleged that his employer’s money was in fact invested in EZjet by senior management of his employer.
A U.S. court will ultimately decide who is telling the truth, but I offer readers some information on one of Sonny’s companies at the centre of the lawsuit. I also offer some information on EZjet’s application to become a scheduled carrier, as well as information on flights that EZjet has plans to cancel between October of 2012 and May of 2013.
Sonny’s former employer has alleged that Payserv Tax Inc. is one of the two companies through which Sonny funneled the millions he allegedly stole. Sonny registered Payserv Tax Inc. on 9/3/10, listing himself as the sole officer, registered agent, and incorporator and asking that 9/1/10 be granted as the corporation’s effective date of incorporation.
When Payserv filed its 2011 Annual Report, Rohan Persaud was added as a director but Sonny retained all of his prior roles. On March 28 of 2012, Payserv made a new filing that removed Sonny from all of his roles and listed Rohan Persaud as the sole officer and new registered agent. So Sonny was no longer an officer or registered agent of Payserv effective 3/28/12. But was he an employee? I guess that time will reveal the answer to this question.
Was money actually transferred from Payserv to EZjet in August and September of 2012? Sonny’s employer claims that US$5.4 million went to EZjet in those two months. But why did EZjet need a large infusion of cash in August and September? Perhaps an application on file with the United States Department of Transportation may provide the answer(s) to this question.
The Federal Register (Vol.77, No. 190) of October 1, 2012 reports that EZjet has filed an application requesting permission to operate as a scheduled airline between the U.S. and Guyana. A similar application (likely the same one), filed under OST-2012-0152, requested permission for EZjet to begin operating its scheduled service from as early as September 27th, 2012. So EZjet has made moves to go from a charter airline to a scheduled airline, an operation that probably requires much more money than a charter service.
It is also worth noting that on 9/25/12, EZjet informed the U.S. Department of Transportation that it will cancel twenty-six (26) return flights it has arranged with its charter carrier Swift Air, Inc for some days between October of 2012 and May of 2013. Those flights are from JFK-GEO-JFK and were/are scheduled for 10/7, 14, 21, 28; 11/04, 11/11, 11/18, 11/25; 12/02, 12/9; 1/20, 1/27; 2/03, 2/10, 2/17, 2/24; 3/03, 3/10, 3/17; 4/14, 4/21, 4/28; and 5/5, 5/12, 5/19, and 5/26. EZjet has promised that affected passengers will be placed on alternative flights or issued full refunds. It is interesting to note that EZjet is required by U.S. law to inform the U.S. government of all intended cancellations, which then become public record.
Perhaps a similar requirement and action by the Guyana government would mimimize the number of customers that are affected when charter carriers like EZjet eventually go out of business.
As we await the court’s decision on the lawsuit against Sonny, I have a feeling that Sonny Ramdeo and his EZjet venture are about to end their short flight into infamy.

Lionel Lowe

EZ Jet boss Sonny Ramdeo accused of stealing US$5.4M & used it to open his low cost carrier

October 25, 2012 1 comment

OCTOBER 25, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS

… transferred money to airline from hospital chain – court records

WEST PALM BEACH (Court House News Service) – A hospital chain claims in court that its payroll manager and his two companies embezzled US$5.4 million from it.
Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals sued Sonny Ramdeo, PayServ Tax and Ez-Jet GT, in Palm Beach County Court. It claims it hired Ramdeo eight years ago to manage payroll for its 3,500 employees in its hospitals nationwide.
Promise accuses, “Sonny Ramdeo, and his companies (of) stealing over five million dollars from Promise through a sophisticated scheme of fraud and deception. Specifically, Ramdeo incorporated a company called ‘PayServ Tax Inc.’ and deceived Promise’s senior management into believing that PayServ was a legitimate payroll tax processing company affiliated with the nationally known payroll processing company, Ceridian.

Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals have sued Sonny Ramdeo, PayServ Tax and Ez-Jet for a US$5.4M embezzlement.
“Based on this lie, he deceived Promise into transferring millions of dollars to PayServ Tax Inc. and diverted over five million dollars of Promise’s money to himself and his companies,” the complaint states.
Ceridian is not a party to the complaint.
”Around October 2010, Ramdeo incorporated PayServ,” the complaint states. “Thereafter, through a sophisticated fraud including false representations, fabricated documents and e-mails, and a fictitious website, Ramdeo deceived Promise’s senior management into believing that Promise’s payroll taxes were being received, processed, and paid by Ceridian (a global payroll services company that Promise had used for years).
Instead, Ramdeo received Promise’s money allocated for payroll taxes through his own company, PayServ, so that he could steal millions of dollars from Promise along the way. Upon information and belief, he did this by forging signatures on standing transfer orders that purported to authorize Promise’s bank to debit funds from Promise’s account for transfer to PayServ’s account at PNC Bank. …
”Significantly, in the past two months alone, Ramdeo stole US$5,387,000 from Promise by diverting its funds to Ez Jet. He did this by diverting money in the PayServ account that had been deposited for payment of Promise’s payroll taxes to his jet charter company, EZJet GT Inc.
”Upon information and belief, since creating PayServ, Ramdeo has been knowingly and intentionally misstating the amount of payroll taxes actually due by Promise and/or misstating the amount of payroll taxes actually transferred to government agencies and stealing the excess funds (in a sum that exceeds US$5,000,000).
“Ramdeo effected this fraud through a sophisticated scheme of fraud that deceived not only Promise’s senior management, but also its auditors. This is because Ramdeo not only fabricated documents, but also emails and websites to deceive Promise and its auditors into believing that Ceridian was receiving and processing Promise’s payroll taxes.
For example, when Promise’s senior management requested additional information from Ramdeo regarding the Ceridian bank account where payroll taxes were being deposited, Ramdeo provided Promise’s senior management with a document – on Ceridian letterhead – which purported to identify ‘the Payroll Trust Account information in which Promise Healthcare’s taxes are being collected into and disbursed out of.’ Ramdeo even fabricated an e-mail to himself from a purported Ken Taylor of Paytax so that it would appear as if he had received the Paytax letter from a third party.
However, like Ramdeo’s other representations, the PayTax Letter and the e-mail from a purported Ken Taylor were fraudulent. They were fabricated by Ramdeo in response to Promise’s request for additional information about the payroll tax account.
”The PayTax Letter and email were only one part of Ramdeo’s scheme. For example, upon information and belief, Ramdeo also purchased the domain name Pay-tax.com and directed that Internet address to link directly to Ceridian’s website so that anyone investigating Pay-tax.com would be deceived into thinking that they were dealing with Ceridian.” (Citations to exhibits omitted; parentheses in complaint.)
The hospitals seek damages for fraud, unjust enrichment, conversion, and civil theft and imposition of a constructive trust.
They are represented by Matthew Triggs, with Proskauer Rose, of Boca Raton.
EZjet started flying to Guyana on December 16, 2011, but competitors in the industry questioned the source of financing of the company.
It was revealed that Ramdeo had a US$348,000 mortgage on his Fort Lauderdale home.
In early March, Ramdeo flew in several of his executives to deny that EZjet has links to former President Bharrat Jagdeo and his businessman friend, Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop.
According to Ramdeo, his operating licence in Guyana was granted after an economic study was done which justified the investment. The company stood in the line and waited its turn and was granted no favors, it was said.
The company was granted permission and started selling tickets in late November. Ramdeo said he used part of his mortgage to fund the startup of the company to the tune of US$1.5M ($300M).
In the process, the former investment banker said he had to utilise the proceeds from his investments funds, stock options from the bank where he worked and his 401K, a retirement savings account.
The US1.5M was used to pay security deposits, bonds, for the aircraft, he said.
Regarding having a mortgage on his Florida home which, taking a risk to invest such a hefty sum on what is considered one of the riskiest businesses in the world, Ramdeo was of the opinion that it had no bearing.
“…And if you truly believe in a business that you can make work when you have done enough homework and research, then you can mitigate the risks that are out there. It is a worthwhile investment. Sure there are investors that take those measures (and) those that don’t.”
“The fact that I have a US$348,000 mortgage has no bearings whatsoever on a business idea. The fact that I did not pay off my mortgage tends to lend to the fact of what if I do pay off my mortgage, take the money and pay it off and then what?”