Updated: February 25, 2021
The story started around 2010 when Nigerian citizen Allen Onyema began traveling frequently to the United States. He would fly from the commercial city of Lagos in Nigeria and end up in Atlanta.
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. It is also the 37th most-populous city in the United States and serves as the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, home to 5.9 million people and the ninth largest metropolitan area in the nation.
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It has many beautiful places and is famous for its nightlife, including some of the biggest strip clubs in the United States, where rich men from around the world crowd to have great fun with amazing women and flaunt money, sometimes, stolen funds.
Prosecutors who charged Onyema with bank fraud and money laundering in the state of Georgia on Friday did not have much details about what he did between 2010 and 2013 apart from opening checking accounts and conducting some low-level business transactions.
But, in 2013, there was a dramatic change and shift in plans and business. Onyema began to play in the big league.
That year, he founded Air Peace Limited, a private Nigerian airline based in the commercial city of Lagos, to provide passenger and charter services in Africa’s most populous nation.
Shortly after that, Onyema, the founder and chief executive officer of the company, began to perfect plans to buy aircraft. But there was a problem. Where should the money come from?
He was not known to be a successful businessman in Nigeria. He was neither an inventor nor a creator and did not own any patent for anything around the world. He was not known to have made millions of dollars via any other business.
Onyema then came up with a billiant idea. He set up several NGOs/foundations in Nigeria with the sole purpose to conceal funds from other sources. He would use the NGOs to transfer millions of dollars to the United States from 2013 and 2014.
The NGOs included Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, Every Child Limited, and International Center for Non-Violence.
Prosecutors said between 2013 and 2014, Onyema used multiple foreign bank accounts, including several Nigerian accounts, to purchase airplanes for the Air Peace fleet.
These planes included Boeing 737 aircraft bearing serial numbers 25234, 25235, and 27530, and Dornier 328 aircraft bearing serial numbers 3221 and 3171.
Funds to purchase these aircraft came from accounts for All-time Peace Media Communications, Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, Every Child Limited, and International Center for Non-Violence.
The total amount of funds from these accounts used to purchase aircraft for Air Peace exceeded $3 million, about a billion Nigerian naira, prosecutors said in court documents on Friday.
Prosecutors said between 2013 and 2016, accounts associated with Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non Violence and Peace Development, AllTime Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited in Nigeria transferred more than $3.8 million into bank accounts in the United States to a combination of escrow, logistical, and personal accounts.
Prosecutors said the funds were used to acquire, export, and service aircraft, as well as to purchase personal property.
Onyema then founded and used Springfield Aviation Company, LEC to facilitate large transfers of funds from his Nigerian bank accounts to the United States, prosecutors said in court documents unsealed after he was charged with bank fraud and money laundering in the state of Georgia.
Court documents said on or about April 4, 2016, a business attorney, at the direction of Onyema established Springfield Aviation Company, LLC (“Springfield Aviation”) as a Limited Liability Company registered in Atlanta, Georgia that purported to specialize in the wholesaling, trading, and sale of commercial aircraft and parts.
Onyena, who is the owner of Springfield Aviation recruited someone identified in court documents as E.M. to act as a manager of Springfield Aviation and to enter into contracts on its behalf.
E.M. had no connection to the aviation business outside of her role with Springfield Aviation and has no education, training, or licensing in the review and valuation of aircraft, including aircraft components.
Court documents said on or about July 18, 2016, Onyema then opened a business checking account ending in 8621 in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC at a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta, Georgia (“WF 8621”). he was the sole authorized signer on WF 8621.
A year after, in or about March 2017, Onyema opened a savings account ending in 0125 in the name of Springfield Aviation Company LLC at a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta, Georgia (“WF 0125”).
he used WF 8621 to pay for personal expenses, among other
things. For example, the account was used to make purchases at Atlanta locations of Publix, Macy’s, DSW, the Ritz-Carlton, and various restaurants.
On August 22, 2018, Onyema established Bluestream Aero Services and Springfield Aviation Company in Ontario, Canada.
He also opened business bank accounts ending in 7523 held in the name of Springfield Aviation Company and 7515 held in the name of Bluestream Aero Services at Bank of Montreal (Canada).
Court documents said with all these companies and bank accounts in place, in November 2018, Onyema transferred around $10 million from Well Fargo 8020 to the Bank of Montreal accounts.
Prosecutors said beginning on a date unknown, but at least as of in or about May 2016 and continuing through at least in or about May 2017, Onyema on behalf of Air Peace, purchased several aircraft.
Beginning on a date unknown, but at least as of in or about May 2016 and continuing through at least in or about February 2018, Onyema, his international airline’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, applied for export letters of credit to cause the transfer of funds from a Nigerian bank account for Aft Peace to Springfield Aviation bank accounts controlled by ONIEMA, purportedly to fund the purchase of aircraft by Air Peace from Springfield Aviation.
The aircraft that was referenced in each of the export letters of credit was never owned or sold by Springfield Aviation.
In support of the letters of credit and to cause the disbursement of funds from either Wells Fargo Bank or JPMorgan Chase Bank NA into Springfield Aviation’s account, Onyema, Eghagha, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, with intent to defraud, submitted false documents to Wells Fargo, including fabricated purchase agreements, bills of sale, and valuation documents.
Eghagha, prosecutors said, sent false documents to E.M. and directed E.M.to sign the documents on behalf of Springfield Aviation. Eghaghanstructed E.M. to present false documents to the respective banks in support of each letter of credit.
TO BE CONTINUED