Popular Ghanaian social media influencer Hajia4Reall has been extradited from the United Kingdom to the US for allegedly swindling over US$2 million from older, single American men and women in a twisted lonely-hearts scam, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Mona Faiz Montrage, 30, appeared in Manhattan federal court Monday for her alleged involvement in a series of romance schemes targeting older people who lived alone, prosecutors said.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges and is set to be released on home detention to her aunt’s New Jersey residence in the coming days on a US$500,000 bond with GPS tracking via an ankle monitor, her lawyer and the prosecutor’s office confirmed to The Post.
Below is the full statement from the US attorney’s office:
“MONTRAGE was arrested in the United Kingdom on November 10, 2022, and was extradited from the United Kingdom on May 12, 2023. MONTRAGE will be presented before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty, to whom the case is assigned, later today.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Mona Faiz Montrage was a member of a criminal conspiracy that specifically targeted older Americans through romance scams. These scams can be both financially and emotionally devastating for vulnerable victims. Thanks to the efforts of our law enforcement partners, Montrage was arrested abroad and has been brought to the United States to face justice.”
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll said: “We alleged today that Ms. Montrage participated in multiple romance scams – often targeting elderly victims – resulting in more than $2 million in fraudulent funds under her control. Romance scams – especially those that target older individuals – are of major concern. The FBI will be tireless in our efforts to hold fraudsters accountable in the criminal justice system.”
From at least in or about 2013 through in or about 2019, MONTRAGE was a member of a criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in West Africa that committed a series of frauds against individuals and businesses in the United States, including romance scams.
Many of the Enterprise’s romance scam victims were vulnerable, older men and women who lived alone. The Enterprise frequently conducted the romance scams by sending the victims emails, text messages, and social media messages that deceived the victims into believing that they were in romantic relationships with a person who had, in fact, a fake identity assumed by members of the Enterprise. Once members of the Enterprise had successfully convinced victims that they were in a romantic relationship and had gained their trust, they convinced the victims, under false pretenses, to transfer money to bank accounts the victims believed were controlled by their romantic interests, when, in fact, the bank accounts were controlled by members of the Enterprise.
MONTRAGE is a Ghanaian public figure who rose to fame as an influencer through her Instagram profile, under the username “Hajia4Reall,” which at one point had approximately 3.4 million Instagram followers and was among the top 10 profiles with the most followers in Ghana.
MONTRAGE received money from several victims of romance frauds whom members of the Enterprise tricked into sending money. Among the false pretenses used to induce victims to send money to MONTRAGE were (i) payments to transport gold to the United States from overseas; (ii) payments to resolve a fake FBI unemployment investigation; and (iii) payments to assist a fake United States army officer in receiving funds from Afghanistan.
As to one victim, MONTRAGE used her real name and spoke to the victim several times by phone. MONTRAGE sent the victim a tribal marriage certificate purporting to show that MONTRAGE and the victim had been married in Ghana. The victim sent MONTRAGE approximately 82 wire transfers totaling approximately $89,000 to purportedly help with costs associated with MONTRAGE’s father’s farm in Ghana.
In total, MONTRAGE controlled bank accounts that received over $2 million in fraudulent funds from the Enterprise.