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Alleged $20m Fraud: U.S. court fixes date for trial of Alex Onyema’s suspected collaborator

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A United States court has rescheduled the trial of Ebony Mayfield, a woman accused of helping the founder of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, to facilitate a $20 million bank fraud.

A new court document obtained by PREMIUM TIMES shows the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia, Atlanta Division, has rescheduled for trial for August 8, 2022.

The document shows the court has jettisoned the earlier trial date of June 27, 2022 date earlier fixed in February by the court.

The judge, Eleanor Ross, issued a notice for the change in the earlier trial date following a request by Ms Mayfield’s legal team, the court document seen by this newspaper shows.

“Having considered the defendant’s Motion to Continue Trial Date and Associated Motions Filing Dates and the reasons set forth therein, the motion is hereby GRANTED.

“The trial and associated motions filing deadlines are hereby CONTINUED. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday, August 8, 2022 at 9:00 am in Courtroom 1708, 75 Ted Turner Drive SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30303,” the judge said in the notice issued on March 19.

Prosecutors say Mayfield allegedly signed and submitted false documents used by Mr Onyema to defraud banks.

Mr Onyema and Air Peace Limited’s Head of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, also face 36 charges at the U.S. court in connection with the alleged fraudulent scheme. But they have yet to show up or send a lawyer to represent them in court.

Details of the case earlier reported by PREMIUM TIMES include how Mr Onyema allegedly recruited Ms Mayfield to act as a manager of his Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which he allegedly used for perpetrating the alleged $20 million fraud between May 2016 and February 2018.

Springfield Aviation, according to court documents seen by this newspaper, was established by Mr Onyema in the U.S. state of Georgia in April 2016 purportedly to specialise in “the wholesaling, trading and sale of commercial aircraft and parts”.

How fraud was allegedly perpetrated
The alleged fraud allegedly began with Mr Onyema and others applying for export letters of credit to cause the transfer of funds purportedly to fund the purchase of aircraft by Air Peace from Springfield Aviation, between May 2016 up till at least February 2018.

In support of the letters of credit, Mr Onyema and others were said to have submitted documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC.

The Head of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha, was said to have sent the documents to Ms Mayfield and directed her to sign them on behalf of Springfield Aviation.

Mr Eghagha, according to court filings, also instructed Ms Mayfield to present the documents to the respective banks in support of each letter of credit.

The support documents, U.S. prosecutors say, were found to be falsified. The aircraft that was referenced in each of the export letters of credit was also never owned or sold by Springfield Aviation, the government added.

The submission of the documents allegedly enabled Mr Onyema to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts of Springfield Aviation controlled by him.

Mr Onyema, after receiving the money in the United States, allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.

Charges
The CEO of Air Peace, a major Nigerian airline operator, and Mr Eghagha now face 36 charges of conspiracy, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, and credit application fraud in the U.S. court.

On her part, Ms Mayfield, who was arrested on June 7, 2019 for her alleged roles in the alleged fraud, faces only one charge of bank fraud in a different case at the same court.

The U.S. government filed a charge against her in open court in December 2019. She has since been granted bail.

Prosecutors say she was recruited as a manager of Springfield Aviation with the role of entering into aviation-related contract on behalf of the firm, despite her lack of education, training, or licensing in the review and valuation of aircraft, including aircraft components.

In a court filing obtained by PREMIUM TIMES which Ms Mayfield filed for variation of her bail bond, she indicated to be “a food service professional” also known as waitress.

While the court has fixed August 8 for her trial, no date has been fixed for the trial of Mr Onyema and Mr Eghagha by the U.S. court due to their unavailability.

Society

My friend who warned against investing in Nigeria now taunting me – Aliko Dangote

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The President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has disclosed that his friend who earlier warned him against investing in Nigeria is now taunting him for ignoring his advice.

Dangote disclosed this in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday just as reports quoted the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority as claiming that diesel from Dangote Refinery is of inferior quality.

“Four years ago, one of my very wealthy friends began to invest his money abroad. I disagreed with him and urged him to rethink his actions in the interest of his country.

“He blamed his action on policy inconsistencies and shenanigans of interest groups.

“That friend has been taunting me in the past few days, saying he warned me and that he has been proven right,” Dangote was quoted to have said.

He said he invested in the refinery to help solve a major issue in the country, wondering why some people were working against him.

He added, “As you probably know, I am 67 years old. In less than three years, I will be 70. I need very little to live the rest of my life. I can’t take the refinery or any other property or asset to my grave. Everything I do is in the interest of my country.’

“We have been facing a fuel crisis since the 70s. This refinery can help in resolving the problem but it does appear some people are uncomfortable that I am in the picture. So I am ready to let go, let the NNPC buy me out, run the refinery.

“This refinery can help in resolving the problem but it does appear some people are uncomfortable that I am in the picture. So I am ready to let go, let the NNPC buy me out, and run the refinery. At least the country will have high-quality products and create jobs.”

The 650,000 barrel-per-day refinery, which came to life last year after a decade of prolonged construction, cost $19 billion, more than double the initial estimate, promising to help wean Africa’s biggest oil producer off its reliance on fuel from overseas and save up 30 per cent of the total foreign exchange spent on importing goods.

On Sunday, the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, said it was expecting fresh reports to confirm the real sulphur content of the diesel produced by the Dangote refinery as the company debunked claims of inferior fuel production.

The NMDPRA spokesman, George Ene-Ita, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the agency had done its job and would not engage in a media fight with anybody over the claims made by the NMDPRA Chief Executive, Farouk Ahmed, that Dangote’s diesel has more sulphur content than imported one.

According to Ene-Ita, the authority has about 15 engineers and scientists embedded in the Dangote refinery, whose fresh report about the refinery’s sulphur content will be out on Monday (today).

Africa’s richest man had earlier narrated how a cabal was blocking his moves to import crude and how it has been difficult to get products, slowing down operations.

But last week, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority said the Nigerian government was yet to license the Dangote refinery to begin operations in the country.

The Chief Executive Officer, NMDPRA, Farouk Ahmed, disclosed this while speaking with journalists at the state House on Thursday, July 18.

According to Ahmed, the claims of ongoing efforts to scuttle the operations of Dangote refinery due to lack of supply of crude oil by International Oil Companies were not true, adding that the refinery was still at the pre-commissioning stage and has not been licensed yet.

Ahmed added that the diesel product of Dangote was below international standard, a claim which the businessman had refuted.

 

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Society

Nigerians Lambast Lawmaker For Gifting Daughter Lexus SUV Amid Hardship, For Graduating From Secondary School

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Some Nigerians have taken to social media to lampoon Yusuf Gagdi, the lawmaker representing Pankshin/ Kanke/Kanam Constituency of Plateau State for gifting her daughter, Aisha, a brand-new Lexus RX SUV for graduating from Lead British International School in Abuja.

Gagdi a member of the All Progressives Congress in the House of Representatives seems to have literally stirred the honest nest as social media users took him to the cleaners.

Gagdi’s daughter also reportedly did well in her Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, Daily Nigerian reports.

Pictures of the proud family and the luxury vehicle were posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page, showcasing the lavish celebration.

The extravagant gift, however, has sparked conversations about wealth inequality and spending habits among Nigerian politicians, especially amidst a struggling economy.

A Facebook user, Lawan Bala Muhammad wrote, “Just secondary school not university. That good representation”

Abubakar Alhaji Abubakar said Nigeria’s “democracy is in wheelchair”.

Abdul Muhammad said, “While his constituents are there without electricity, water, access road or job opportunities.”

“So she would be gifted a jet when she graduates from the university, mispriority of highest order!all the same,congrats to the young damsel,” King Sunday Ajayi wrote.

Adebanjo Joshua said, “SUV that worths more than #75M wasted on secondary school graduated daughter while his constituents are left unemployed and impoverished? God will punish you!”

Babadoko Kutigi wrote, “And they(politicians)keep on telling innocent and venerable Nigerians to be patient with government while add more millions to their reserves everyday by day.”

Ahmerd Muserh said, “How i wish! Such is happening amidst the uncertainty of twice meal for the masses. Nigeria is not a country, it’s a business organisation with heartless proprietors. Astagfirullah!”

Nura Isyaku Fagge wrote, “This is the same lawmaker pretending to pity our situation. He was once addressing the chamber nearly crying.. Mhm.”

Tpl Imrana Daura said, “He could have the money used in buying the car and settle school fees for the less privileged. At least he can for over 300 students in the Nigerian Federal University tuition fees system.”

Also, Ibrahim Magaji Alkasim said, “This car is worth 80-100 Million Naira. How long will it take a working class Nigerian to buy it?

“The politicians are nothing but bunch of looters, they milk the country dry and if you ask for 250k minimum wage they will say Nigeria doesn’t have that money to pay its workers. Always borrowing money from China, IMF and world Bank, they are the same people that will share the money as bogus allowances and mismanage the rest.”

“That is why as ordinary citizens it’s time for us to come back into our right senses and forget our differences, which they are using to divide us. Let us remember It’s us VS them!”

Musa Ibrahim Ahmed wrote, “And they’re still asking Nigerians to be patient. Someone who’s giving out a car worth 40m is asking someone who is struggling with 2 square meal to be patient.!!

“This life no balance at all..🙄 We must protests and bring an end to this inhumane treatment by the gov’t. Aluta continua.”

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Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui convicted in $1b fraud scheme

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A wealthy Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, a self-styled opponent of the authorities in Beijing, was found guilty of defrauding customers of more than $1 billion in a New York federal court on Tuesday, prosecutors said.

Guo presented himself as a fierce critic of the Chinese Communist Party and a fervent defender of democracy, while keeping links with US right-wing figure Steve Bannon, recently jailed in a separate case.

The FBI arrested Guo in March 2023 at his luxurious Manhattan apartment, in a building overlooking Central Park, accusing him of using his online fame to convince thousands of investors to fund his companies or projects.

They included GTV Media, and G/Clubs, which promised profitable investments or luxury services.

But instead of enriching his customers, their funds enabled him to live a life of lavish excess.

“Miles Guo, an exiled Chinese businessman and purported billionaire, brazenly operated several interrelated fraud schemes, all designed to fleece his loyal followers out of their hard-earned money so that Guo could spend his days in his 50,000 square foot mansion, driving his $1 million Lamborghini, or lounging on his $37 million yacht,” prosecutors said, referring to Guo by an alias.

A unanimous jury found Guo Wengui guilty of racketeering conspiracy and various securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering charges. He faces decades in prison.”

 

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