Alleged $20m fraud: US court sentences Allen Onyema’s conspirator to three years probation

Airpeace boss, Allen Onyema

A United States court on Friday sentenced a self-confessed conspirator in the alleged $20 million fraud allegedly organised by Air Peace CEO, Allen Onyema, to three years’ probation.

The court also awarded $4,000 as fine against Ebony Mayfiled, who, had in June, pleaded guilty to the charge of signing and submitting fake documents to facilitate the alleged fraud.

The US government accused her of signing and submitting the fabricated 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 an alleged money laundering scheme.

She was charged in 2019, and she initially pleaded “not guilty” to all eight charges at the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.

But she changed her plea to plead guilty to one of the charges in June, after entering into a plea agreement that saw the US government drop the seven remaining charges against her.

The law under which she was charged provided for maximum five years jail term for the offence she pleaded guilty to.

Following her guilty plea, her lawyer filed for a variance of sentence on 13 October, begging to be sentenced to a probated sentence or what is called supervised release, instead of imprisonment.

PREMIUM TIMES reported earlier on Friday that the US government, in its response, agreed to a lower limit of sentence range, which includes house detention for six months.

At the sentencing on Friday, the judge, Eleanor Ross, after discussing the pre-sentence report with lawyers to the parties, and listening to Ms Mayfield briefly, imposed “a total of THREE (3) YEARS of probation” on her.


The judge also ordered “$4,000 fine (the interest is waived); $100 special assessment; and additional requirements.”

He also gave her limited appellate rights, and noted that she was ready on bail.

‘Supervised release’

The court’s decision is a concession to the defendant’s request for probated sentence or what her lawyer called conditional release.

The defence lawyer, Manubir Arora, had said “imprisonment is not the only form of punishment” and stressed that “probation alone is a viable alternative form of punishment.”

Under the probated sentence, Ms Mayfield’s lawyers said, her travel would be restricted and her associations would be regulated.

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

A probation officer would also be appointed to monitor her during the three years period.

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

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

She also said her participation in the alleged crime brought shame upon her family.

I’m innocent – Onyema

Again, Mr Onyema, denied any wrongdoing regarding the allegations on Friday.

Mr Onyema and another official of Air Peace, Ejiroghene Eghagha, maintained their innocence in a press release by their lawyers.

The statement by A.O. Alegeh & Co law firm was silent on the 36 charges of fraud and money laundering still pending against Mr Onyema and his co-defendant at the same court where Ms Mayfield was prosecuted.

But they maintained in their press release that the fact that Ms Mayfield was not given any prison sentence, confinement or home detention by the court confirmed that there was no fraud in the $20 million deal.

“This confirms the position of our clients that there was no fraudulent intent in all the Letters of Credit, there was no victim in any way, manner or form.

“All the funds involved were legitimate funds belonging to Our Clients. There was no loss of money or any damage whatsoever to any third party,” the press statement read. PremiumTimes

It added that the US government, which has yet to terminate the pending 36 charges against Mr Onyema and his co-defendant, “admitted in court today that no bank suffered any financial loss in this matter.”

The statement also denied that Mr Onyema paid Ms Mayfield $20,000 for her roles in the alleged fraud.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that Ms Mayfield had claimed she received $20,000 while she participated in “the conspiracy” between 2016 and 2018. PremiumTimes


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