The Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema has been indicted over an alleged bank fraud and money laundering scheme.
The Airline owner was accused of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of airplanes.
“Onyema allegedly leveraged his status as a prominent business leader and airline executive while using falsified documents to commit fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “We will diligently protect the integrity our banking system from being corrupted by criminals, even when they disguise themselves in a cloak of international business.”
Air Peace’s Chief of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha was also linked to the alleged fraudulent scheme and was charged with bank fraud and committing aggravated identity theft.
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented on the indictment, “Allen Onyema’s status as a wealthy businessman turned out to be a fraud. He corrupted the U.S. banking system, but his trail of deceit and trickery came to a skidding halt. DEA would like to thank the many law enforcement partners and the subsequent prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office who aided in making this investigation a success.”
“This case is a prime example of why IRS-CI seeks to partner and leverage its expertise in an effort to thwart those seeking to exploit our nation’s financial system,” said Thomas J. Holloman, IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Office. “With the importance of our banking system to the movement of money around the world, those attempting to use intricate schemes to commit bank fraud through the use of falsified documents and other means should know that the odds are now heavily stacked against them as law enforcement is combining its talents to protect the sanctity and integrity of the nation’s financial system.”
“Onyema setup various innocent sounding multi-million dollar asset purchases which were nothing more than alleged fronts for his scam,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama. “I’m proud to be part of a team of law enforcement agencies that come together to identify and attack criminals that attempt to profit from the exploitation of our nation’s financial systems.”
It was gathered that Onyema began a frequent trip to Atlanta in United States in 2010 and reportedly opened several personal and business bank accounts. Between 2010 and 2018, over $44.9 million was allegedly transferred into his Atlanta-based accounts from foreign sources.
In the statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Northern District of Georgia, the Nigerian businessman was accused of purchasing five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by using a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into his Atlanta-based bank accounts.
The supporting documents were allegedly fake and reportedly from Springfield Aviation Company LLC which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business. It was found that Springfield Aviation Company LLC never owned the aircraft it claimed to be buying. The company that allegedly drafted the appraisals also does not exist.
Onyema and Eghagha were indicted on November 19, 2019 on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit credit application fraud, and three counts of credit application fraud.
Additionally, Onyema was charged with 27 counts of money laundering while Eghagha was charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.