Us Govt Yields To House Detention Sentence For Allen Onyema’s Alleged Fraud Conspirator

Us Govt Yeilds To House Detention Sentence For Allen Onyema’s Alleged Fraud Conspirator

The United States Government has conceded to a sentence of house detention for Ebony Mayfield, after she confessed to helping Air Peace founder, Allen Onyema, to perpetrate an alleged $20 million fraud.

She was charged in 2019 at the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta under a law that provides for maximum five years jail term for her offence.

The sentencing guideline also provides for a mandatory imprisonment with full restitution of the gains derived from the alleged crime.

The US government accused her of signing and submitting fake documents between 2016 and 2018 to help Mr Onyema, owner of Air Peace, a major Nigerian commercial airline, to move $20 million from Nigeria to the US in a money laundering scheme.

But Ms Mayfield after pleading guilty, on 29 June, to the charge of signing fake documents to help facilitate the alleged fraud, applied to the trial court for a variance of sentence.

Ahead of her sentencing by the judge, Eleanor Ross, today (Friday), Ms Mayfield, through her lawyer, in the document, filed an application for downward review of sentence on 13 October.

Her lawyer, Manubir Arora, leaded with the judge in the court filing to sentence her to a “conditional release” instead of imprisonment.

He said the woman, who was arrested and charged in 2019, had “tried to make amends for her actions by confessing to law enforcement when arrested, cooperating with federal authorities as the investigation continued, and finally, accepting responsibility.”

In its response filed on 21 October the prosecution team led by Ryan Buchan, the US government “requests that the court impose a sentence at the low end of the Guidelines Range.”

“More specifically,” the government “requests that the court impose a sentence of probation that includes six months of home detention…”

Supervised Release
The US government’s request is a concession to the defendant’s request for supervised release.

The defence team, in the request, asked for a probated sentence or what they called a conditional release for their clients, arguing that “imprisonment is not the only form of punishment”.

They stressed that “probation alone is a viable alternative form of punishment.”

If given probated sentence, Ms Mayfield’s lawyers said, her travel will be restricted and her associations will be regulated.

She will also be subject to random searches of her person and premises and subject to other special conditions such as house arrest and intermittent confinement.

“In Ms Mayfield’s case, probation serves all the goals of sentencing even though the guidelines may call for imprisonment,” her court filing said.

Hoping “to put this unfortunate series of choices behind her,” she had confessed that Mr Onyema paid her a total of $20,000 for the part she played in the scheme between 2016 and 2018.

She conceded that she behaved “irrationally” by signing fake documents to help Mr Onyema carry out the money laundering and bank fraud involving $20 million.

She said her participation in the fraud had brought shame upon her family.

Alleged Fraud
Mr Onyema engaged the bartender and nightclub dancer as a manager for his Atlanta, Gerogia-based Springfield Aviation Company LLC in 2016.

The Air Peace founder set up the firm to, purportedly, “specialise in the wholesaling, trading, and sale of commercial aircraft and parts”.

The US government said, Mr Onyema engaged Ms Mayfield to enter into aviation-related contracts on behalf of Springfield Aviation, despite her lack of education, training, or licensing in the review and valuation of aircraft and aircraft components.

In her plea bargain that she filed in June, she confessed to signing and submitting fake documents enabling a $20 million credit disbursement from Nigeria to US bank accounts, purportedly for Air Peace to buy five Boeing 737 passenger planes from Springfield Aviation.

The fake documents allegedly submitted by the conspirators, according to the US prosecutors, included fabricated purchase agreements, bills of sale, and valuation.

Both Air Peace, a major Nigerian commercial airline, and the purported aircraft seller, Springfield Aviation, are owned by My Onyema.

Prosecutors alleged that the aircraft referenced in the letters of credit and other fake documents submitted with respect to the deal were already owned by Air Peace. None of them ever belonged to Springfield Aviation, the prosecution said.

They also alleged that Mr Onyema founded and used Springfield Aviation “to facilitate large transfers of funds from his Nigerian bank accounts to the United States.”

Mr allegedly moved about $15 million from Springfield Aviation’s account with a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Atlanta, Georgia, to his personal savings account with the same bank in 27 transactions in 2017.

The flagged 27 transactions took place between 22 March and 29 November 2017.

Mr Onyema and Air Peace Limited’s Head of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, are facing 36 charges at the District Court in Atlanta, in connection with the alleged $20 million fraudulent scheme.

Among the charges preferred against them are bank fraud, credit application fraud and money laundering.

Each of the flagged 27 online transfers carried out by Mr Onyema within nine months in 2017 involved values ranging from $100,000 to $1 million.

The transactions totalled $15.14 million.
Each of the 27 transactions stands alone as a charge of money laundering.

Under the money laundering charges, prosecutors alleged that both Messrs Onyema and Eghagha, aided and abetted by others, “attempted to engage in a monetary transaction” involving a financial institution, with effect on “interstate and foreign commerce”.

They alleged that each of the transactions involved more than $10,000 “criminally derived from unlawful activities” including bank fraud and credit application fraud.

In November 2020, the government of the State of Georgia dissolved Springfield Aviation, over its failure to file its annual registration and/or failure to maintain a registered agent or registered office in this state.

Mr Onyema denied all the allegations of fraud levelled against him when the charges against him were unveiled by the US government in 2019.

Although he said the charges did not reflect his personality as a business owner, he and his co-defendant have yet to appear in court.

Source-: Premium Times