Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, 56, of Lagos, Nigeria, and Ejiroghene Eghagha, 37, of Lagos, Nigeria, 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, and Eghagha was charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.
Allen Onyema, CEO Air Peace and Ejiroghene Eghagha, Air Peace Chief of Administration and Finance are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the US government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
Allen Onyema CEO Air Peace fraud – what allegedly happened
According to U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court:
Beginning in 2010, Allen Ifechukwu Athan Onyema, a Nigerian citizen and businessman began travelling frequently to Atlanta, where he 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 2013, Onyema founded Nigerian airline Air Peace, which he is also the CEO and Chairman.
In years following the founding of Air Peace, he traveled to the United States and purchased multiple airplanes for the airline.
However, over $3 million of the funds used to purchase the aircraft allegedly came from bank accounts for Foundation for Ethnic Harmony, International Center for Non-Violence and Peace Development, All-Time Peace Media Communications Limited, and Every Child Limited.
Beginning in approximately May 2016, Onyema, together with Eghagha, allegedly used a series of export letters of credit to cause banks to transfer more than $20 million into Atlanta-based bank accounts controlled by Onyema.
The letters of credit were purportedly to fund the purchase of five separate Boeing 737 passenger planes by Air Peace.
The letters were supported by documents such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, and appraisals proving that Air Peace was purchasing the aircraft from Springfield Aviation Company LLC, a business registered in Georgia.
However, the supporting documents were fake — Springfield Aviation Company LLC, which is owned by Onyema and managed by a person with no connection to the aviation business, never owned the aircraft, and the company that allegedly drafted the appraisals did not exist.
Eghagha allegedly participated in this scheme as well, directing the Springfield Aviation manager to sign and send false documents to banks and even using the manager’s identity to further the fraud.
After Onyema received the money in the United States, he allegedly laundered over $16 million of the proceeds of the fraud by transferring it to other accounts.
Reacting to the indictment, Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division said:
“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.”
Authorities investigating this case include:
- The Drug Enforcement Administration,
- Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation,
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations,
- Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Commerce,
- and Department of Treasury
Those prosecuting the case include:
- Assistant U.S. Attorneys Garrett L. Bradford,
- Deputy Chief of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section
- Lead Strike Force Attorney, Irina K. Dutcher, and Christopher J. Huber,
- Deputy Chief of the Complex Frauds Section,
- with assistance from the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Office of International Affairs.
This prosecution was brought as a part of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Co-located Strike Forces Initiative, which enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations against a continuum of priority targets and their affiliate illicit financial networks.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.
The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.