U.S. Court Set To Begin Fraud Trial Of Air Peace Boss, Allen Onyema’s Alleged Conspirator
The United States has set a date for the trial of a woman accused of helping the founder of Air Peace, Allen Onyema launder $20 million, according to a report by Premium Times.
The US court has scheduled the trial to begin in June.
According to PREMIUM TIMES, Ebony Mayfield, who allegedly signed and submitted false documents used by Onyema to defraud banks, faces a bank fraud charge at the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia, Atlanta Division.
Onyema and Air Peace Limited’s Head of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, also face 36 charges at the U.S. court in connection with the alleged fraudulent scheme. But they have yet to show up or send a lawyer to represent them in court.
However, a ‘Notice Setting Trial’ issued by Michelle Beck, a courtroom deputy clerk, on February 4, 2022, has scheduled Ms Mayfield’s trial to begin on June 27.
Between April 25 and May 16, according to the court’s schedule, parties are expected to file various preliminary motions and replies ahead of a pretrial conference and motions hearing slated for June 2.
The June 2 pretrial hearing will be the last proceedings before the jury trial scheduled to begin before the trial judge, Eleanor Ross, on June 27.
Prosecutors say Onyema recruited Ms Mayfield to act as a manager of his Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which he allegedly used for perpetrating the alleged $20 million fraud between May 2016 and February 2018.
Springfield Aviation, according to court documents, was established by Onyema in the U.S. state of Georgia in April 2016 purportedly to specialise in “the wholesaling, trading/ and sale of commercial aircraft and parts”.
But prosecutors say Ms Mayfield was recruited as a manager of Springfield Aviation with the role of entering into aviation-related contract on behalf of the firm, despite her lack of education, training, or licensing in the review and valuation of aircraft, including aircraft components.
In a court filing which Ms Mayfield filed for variation of her bail bond, she indicated to be “a food service professional” also known as waitress.
The alleged fraud allegedly began with Onyema and others applying for export letters of credit to cause the transfer of funds purportedly to fund the purchase of aircraft by Air Peace from Springfield Aviation, between May 2016 up till at least February 2018.
In support of the letters of credit, Onyema and others were said to have submitted documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC.
The Head of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, was said to have sent the documents to Ms Mayfield and directed her to sign them on behalf of Springfield Aviation.
Eghagha, according to court filings, also instructed Ms Mayfield to present the documents to the respective banks in support of each letter of credit.
The support documents, U.S. prosecutors say, were found to be falsified. The aircraft that was referenced in each of the export letters of credit was also never owned or sold by Springfield Aviation, the government added.
The submission of the documents allegedly enabled Onyema to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts of Springfield Aviation controlled by him.
Onyema, after receiving the money in the United States, allegedly laundered over $16 million, the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.
The CEO of Air Peace, a major Nigerian airline operator, and Eghagha now face 36 charges of conspiracy, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, and credit application fraud in the U.S. court.
Ms Mayfield, on her part, faces only one charge of bank fraud in a different case at the same court.
PREMIUM TIMES added that Georgia State authorities have dissolved Springfield Aviation allegedly used for the fraud.
This was said to have followed the failure of the company to file its annual registration after its principal officials, including Onyema, were charged in 2019.
Ms Mayfield was arrested on June 7, 2019, for her alleged roles in the alleged fraud.
The U.S. government filed a charge against her in open court in December 2019. She has since been granted bail.
But no date has been fixed for the trial of Onyema and Eghagha by the U.S. court due to their unavailability.
On December 28, 2021, Ms Mayfield filed an application in court for the modification of bail bond.
She requested that the court allow her to travel outside of the Northern District of Georgia; allow her pretrial supervision to be transferred to Houston, Texas in the Southern District of Texas.
Ms Mayfield said she would like to move back home and be near her family and continue her waitress job.
She added that she would like to move there on February 15, 2022.
Catherine Salinas, a U.S magistrate-judge, granted the request on January 19, 2022.
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