Authorities in the U.S. state of Georgia have dissolved Springfield Aviation Company LLC allegedly used for bank fraud and money laundering by the CEO and Chairman of Air Peace, Allen Onyema.
The company, incorporated and based in Georgia State, is said to have been deficient in filing its annual registration, after the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges against its principals, including Mr Onyema in 2019.
Owned and controlled by Mr Onyema, Springfield Aviation Company LLC was formed on April 4, 2016, as a domestic limited liability company to carry on any legitimate business, documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES show.
But on November 22, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the charging of Mr Onyema, accusing him of moving more than $20 million from Nigeria through United States bank accounts in a scheme involving false documents based on the purchase of aeroplanes.
Mr Onyema was charged alongside Air Peace Limited’s Head of Administration and Finance, Ejiroghene Eghagha.
They both face 36 charges of conspiracy, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, and credit application fraud in connection with the $20million scheme.
One of the companies used in committing the alleged offences is Springfield Aviation LLC, prosecutors said.
“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 U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia said in a November 22, 2019 statement announcing the indictment of the two suspects.
“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.”
However, since the charges were filed, nothing has been heard of the progress in the case and Mr Onyema is not known to have visited the U.S. ever since.
Bob Page, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia, declined comments when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him for updates on the case.
But this newspaper has now obtained information that Springfield Aviation, the U.S. company Mr Onyema used in making the problematic transactions, has now been dissolved.
In an October 22, 2020 letter to the company, seen by PREMIUM TIMES, the Secretary of State and the Corporation Commissioner of the State of Georgia informed the firm that it had been dissolved.
“I, Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State and the Corporation Commissioner of the State of Georgia, hereby certify under the seal of my office that Springfield Aviation Company, LLC a Domestic Limited Liability Company was mailed a notice in accordance with Title 14 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and was involuntarily or administratively dissolved or its certificate of authority revoked by the Office of Secretary of State on 10/22/2020 for failure to file its annual registration and/or failure to maintain a registered agent or registered office in this state,” the document, tiled Certificate of Administrative Dissolution/Revocation, read.
“This certificate is issued pursuant to Title 14 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and is prima-facie evidence of the existence or nonexistence of the facts stated herein.”
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that Springfield Aviation LLC (with Control Number 16035630) became deficient in filing its annual registration following the indictment of its principals in 2019.
Mr Onyema has kept away from the U.S. while the company’s only staffer, based in Georgia, was also charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
The firm’s long-term registration agent, Roy Hadley, E. Jr., of Atlanta, also appeared to have cut off links with the embattled corporation.
He did not respond to an August 7, 2020 correspondence from the Georgian Secretary of State informing him of the state’s intention to dissolve Springfield Aviation and requesting him to show cause why that should not be done.
Other indicted firms
Findings by PREMIUM TIMES showed that Springfield Aviation LLC is one Mr Onyema’s four overseas business entities.
The others are Springfield Aviation Company Inc., registered in Canada on August 22, 2018 (with incorporation number 1095798-4), Bluestream Aero Services Inc., also formed in Canada on August 22, 2018 (with incorporation number 1095801-8) and Air Peace Limited (Johannesburg) founded on December 9, 2020 (with identification number K2020918092).
At least $10.4 million of the $14.3 million seized from Mr Onyema in the case are held by the Bank of Montreal, Canada, by the two Canadian-registered firms. While $5,634,842.04 is held in the name of Bluestream Aero Services Inc., the sum of $4,593,842.05 is said to be held in the name of Springfield Aviation Inc.
The balance of the funds – $4,017,852.51 – is held by JP Morgan Chase Bank in the name of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC, Mr Onyema’s U.S.-based entity that has now been dissolved.
Air Peace responds
PREMIUM TIMES contacted Air Peace whose head of public affairs, Stanley Olisa, said he knows nothing about the dissolution of Springfield Aviation Company, LLC.
“I am not aware of that, I will not be able to comment.”
When asked about the status of the previous indictment, Mr Olisa said: “the case is in public domain, there are reports on it, so that is it.”
Chiamaka Okafor is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.
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