Ebony Mayfield, a co-conspirator in a $20 million scam allegedly orchestrated by the founder of Air Peace, Allen OnyemaHe has asked for a supervised release instead of being sentenced to prison.
Ms Mayfield risks five years in prison after pleading guilty to helping Mr Onyema sign forged documents to support his application for a $20 million loan between 2016 and 2018.
She pleaded guilty June 29 before Trial Judge Eleanor Ross of the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta.
The charges include helping Mr Onyema facilitate the $20 million bank fraud between May 2016 and February 2018 when she worked as an executive for Springfield Aviation Company LLC, owned by the Air Peace founder.
US prosecutors accused her of signing and filing false documents used by Mr Onyema to commit bank fraud in the US
Mr Onyema and Air Peace Limited’s Administrative and Financial Director, Ejiroghene Eghagha, also face 36 charges in US court in connection with the alleged fraudulent scheme.
But they have yet to show up or send a lawyer to represent them in court.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that after Ms Mayfield’s guilty plea, the trial judge set October 28 for her sentencing.
Ahead of the sentencing, Ms Mayfield’s attorney, Manubir Arora, requested a “variation” of the sentence on October 13.
In the document, titled “Sentencing Memorandum and Motion for Downward Variance,” the defense team called for “a suspended sentence” as opposed to the prison sentence provided for her offense in the sentencing guidelines.
Which entails a parole
In the motion, the defense team called for a suspended sentence, or so-called conditional release, for its clients. They argued that “captivity is not the only form of punishment”.
They emphasized that “parole alone is a viable alternative form of punishment.”
In the event of a suspended sentence, Ms Mayfield’s lawyers said her travel would be restricted and her connections regulated.
She is also subject to random searches of her person and premises and other special conditions such as house arrest and temporary detention.
“In Ms. Mayfield’s case, probation serves all of the objectives of the conviction, even though the guidelines provide for imprisonment,” her court filing reads.
Ms Mayfield’s defense team argued that “although the guidelines may provide for incarceration, probation serves all the objectives of sentencing”.
They noted that Ms Mafied is a first-time offender and someone who “has not been convicted of a violent crime or other serious offense”.
“As Congress has recognized, excessive length of time should generally be inappropriate in cases such as Ms. Mayfield’s,” her legal team wrote.
ALSO READ: US court sets date for sentencing of Air Peace founder
They acknowledged that “prolonged imprisonment has a specific deterrent effect,” but asserted that “it is not the only form of punishment that has a deterrent effect.”
“The question is whether the specific penalty imposed has a sufficient deterrent effect. Counsel respectfully notes that in Ms Mayfield’s case, that goal can be adequately achieved through a conviction that does not require imprisonment for a nonviolent offender.”
The defense team therefore asked the court to “consider all the factors present in this case and sentence Ms. Mayfield to supervised imprisonment”.
Ms Mayfield, who was arrested on June 7, 2019 for her role in the alleged scheme, had previously pleaded not guilty to all eight charges against her in December 2019.
Her trial was postponed to August 8 in March this year.
But weeks before the trial date, she changed her plea from not guilty to guilty when she appeared before the trial judge on June 29.
Ms. Mayfield pleaded guilty to one of eight counts of charges brought against her by the US government.
A copy of the plea agreement she and her attorney signed with US prosecutors shows that she specifically pleaded guilty to count 5, which involves conspiracy to defraud loan applications.
5 years in prison and other penalties
She risks up to five years in prison for the crime if the court strictly follows sentencing guidelines.
Five years in prison is the maximum sentence provided by Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 371, under which she was charged with the offense in Count 5.
Aside from the risk of a maximum five-year prison sentence that she faces, the plea agreement also recommends a $250,000 fine or double the gain or double the loss, whichever is largest. The fine is due and payable immediately.
It will also immediately make a full refund due and payable to all victims of the crime(s) and relevant conduct.
The Defense Agreement also recommends the forfeiture of all proceeds of the commission of the crime and any assets used or intended to be used in facilitating the crime.
She is subject to a mandatory special assessment of US$100 due and payable immediately.
By pleading guilty, she also waived the right to plead not guilty, the right to be tried by jury, and the right to appeal her conviction.
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