An American woman, Ebony Mayfield, who allegedly aided Allen Onyema, founder of Air Peace, in facilitating a $20 million bank fraud, has admitted to receiving $20,000 for her roles over a period of two years.
She reportedly pleaded guilty to the charge at the United States district court for the northern district of Georgia, in Atlanta, on June 29.
Following her guilty plea, Eleanor Ross, trial judge, has fixed October 28 for her sentencing, Premium Times reported.
Ahead of the sentencing scheduled for Friday, Mayfield, a bartender and nightclub dancer, has pleaded with the judge to sentence her to conditional release, instead of imprisonment.
She admitted in her court filing submitted by her lawyer that she behaved irrationally by helping Onyema sign the fake documents.
Mayfield was also said to have admit that she received $20,000 over the two years period for the part she played in the fraud.
Manubir Arora, her lawyer, in a document filed on October 13, wrote: “There is no doubt Ms. Mayfield knew right from wrong. She behaved irrationally in trying to help the co-defendants by signing false forms for their benefit.”
“Over the period of the conspiracy, Mayfield was paid approximately $20,000 in total by the co-defendants to sign and file the paperwork at issue.”
Mayfield was quoted as saying her acts were “a tremendous aberration from the person she actually is”.
However, she said it makes no excuses for her poor decision making.
Therefore, according to the court filing, she urged the judge to show leniency in sentencing as she “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”.
‘MAYFIELD: MANAGER AT SPRINGFIELD AVIATION’
Mayfield was engaged by Onyema as a manager for his Atlanta, Gerogia-based Springfield Aviation Company LLC in 2016.
The company was purportedly set up “to specialise in the wholesaling, trading, and sale of commercial aircraft and parts”.
Prosecutors said she was engaged 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 filed in June, she confessed to signing and submitting fake documents enabling a $20 million credit disbursement from Nigeria to US bank accounts.
The payment was purportedly made for Air Peace to acquire five Boeing 737 passenger planes from Springfield Aviation.
Both Air Peace, a Nigerian commercial airline, and the purported aircraft seller, Springfield Aviation, are owned by 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.
Under the law she was charged with, Mayfield risks a maximum jail term of five years as her punishment, aside full restitution of the proceeds she derived from the alleged crime.
In 2019, US authorities had said Onyema allegedly moved more than $20 million from Nigeria through US bank accounts in a scheme involving “false documents” for the purchase of airplanes.
He was indicted alongside Ejiroghene Eghagha, the airline’s chief of administration and finance, who is said to have committed “aggravated identity theft” in connection with the scheme.
Onyema allegedly issued several fraudulent letters of credit to American banks and was said to have initiated wire transfers to the tune of $44.9 million within eight years.
The Nigerian businessman has since denied the allegation levelled against him, describing it as unfounded.