Ebony Mayfield, co-conspirator in an alleged $20 million fraud involving Air Peace founder Allen Onyema, has pleaded guilty, PREMIUM TIMES authoritatively reports.
Ms Mayfield pleaded guilty to one of eight counts filed against her by the US government in District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta on June 29.
The fraud allegedly carried out by Mr Onyema was allegedly perpetrated under the guise of obtaining credit to purchase planes for Air Peace, a Nigerian frontline airline, in the United States.
Ms Mayfield was accused of helping Mr Onyema facilitate the $20 million bank fraud between May 2016 and February 2018 when she worked as a director of Springfield Aviation Company LLC, owned by the founder of Air Peace.
US prosecutors accused her of signing and submitting the false documents used by Mr. Onyema to perpetrate the bank fraud in the United States.
Ms Mayfield, who was arrested on June 7, 2019 for her alleged roles in the alleged scheme, had previously pleaded not guilty to the eight charges brought against her in December 2019.
His trial took place in March of this year rescheduled to begin August 8.
But weeks before the trial date, she changed her plea from not guilty to guilty when she appeared before trial judge Eleanor Ross on June 29.
A copy of the plea agreement she and her attorney signed with U.S. prosecutors shows she specifically pleaded guilty to count 5, which is conspiracy to commit credit application fraud.
“The defendant (Ebony Mayfield) admits that she pleads guilty because she is in fact guilty of the crime(s) charged in Count 5,” reads in part a copy of the plea agreement obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.
She faces up to five years in prison based on the plea deal.
Five years’ imprisonment is the maximum prison term under Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, under which she was charged with the Count 5 offense.
There are, however, indications that she will get less than five years on her sentencing already scheduled for September 21.
The plea agreement stated that if his “cooperation” with the government continued to qualify as “substantial assistance,” prosecutors “will file a motion at sentencing recommending a downward deviation from the range of applicable guidelines”.
If his cooperation continues to be seen as substantial assistance after sentencing, the government said, he would re-file “a motion for reduced sentence”.
U.S. federal prosecutors in North Georgia also agreed “not to pursue any additional charges against the defendant, except for charges arising out of or related to violent criminal activity based on any information provided by the accused in the context of the cooperation which was not known to the accused”. Government before cooperation.
Other penalties as Ms Mayfield pleads guilty
Along with risking a maximum five-year prison sentence she faces, the plea deal also recommends that she be fined $250,000, either double the gain or double the loss. , whichever is greater. The fine is due and payable immediately.
It will also make full restitution due and payable immediately to all victims of the offence(s) and relevant conduct.
The plea agreement also recommends the forfeiture of any proceeds of the commission of the offense and any property used or intended to be used in facilitating the offense.
It will be subject to a mandatory special assessment of $100, due and payable immediately.
She also, by pleading guilty, waived the right to plead not guilty, the right to be tried by jury, and the right to appeal her conviction.
If she is not a US citizen, she faces deportation from the country after serving her prison sentence.
“The defendant acknowledges that pleading guilty may affect her immigration status if she is not a citizen of the United States. Under federal law, a wide range of crimes are removable offenses, including the offense to which the defendant pleads guilty,” the document reads.
But Manubir Arora, Ms Mayfield’s lawyer, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that his client is a US citizen and therefore cannot be deported from the country.
Prosecutors say Mr Onyema recruited Ms Mayfield to act as a director of his Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which he allegedly used to carry out the alleged $20 million fraud between May 2016 and February 2018.
Springfield Aviation, according to court documents, was set up by Mr Onyema in the US state of Georgia in April 2016, allegedly to specialize in “wholesale, trade and sale of commercial aircraft and parts”. .
Prosecutors say Ms Mayfield was recruited as a director of Springfield Aviation with the role of entering into aviation-related contracts on behalf of the company, despite her lack of education, training or license in the business. examination and evaluation of aircraft, including aircraft components.
Between November 2016 and October 2017, prosecutors said, Mr. Onyema applied for export letters of credit to cause the transfer of funds from a Nigerian bank account for Air Peace to the Springfield Aviation bank account, “self -saying to fund Air Peace’s purchase of aircraft from Springfield Aviation”.
“The aircraft that was referenced in each of the export letters of credit was never owned or sold by Springfield Aviation,” prosecutors said.
They added that the defendants also submitted false documents to Wells Fargo (US bank), including fabricated purchase contracts, bills of sale and appraisal documents, in support of the letter of credit for cause the disbursement of funds from Wells Fargo to the account of Springfield Aviation. .
Mr Onyema and Air Peace Limited’s chief administrative and financial officer, Ejiroghene Eghagha, also face 36 charges in US court in connection with the alleged fraudulent scheme.
But they still have to appear or send a lawyer to represent them in court.
Chiamaka Okafor is a journalist at Premium Times in partnership with report for the worldwhich pairs local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-reported issues around the world.
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