UK Government Hands Over Hajia4Real To US Government After $2 Million Scam
Federal law enforcement announced on Monday that Ghanaian social media celebrity Mona Faiz Montrage, also known as Hajia4Real, had been extradited from the UK to the US for allegedly scamming elderly, single Americans of more than $2 million in a bizarre lonely hearts scam.
She appeared in federal court in Manhattan on Monday for her alleged involvement in several romance scams that preyed on elderly individuals who were living alone, according to the prosecution.
She entered a not guilty plea to the allegations, and according to her attorney, she will be released in the upcoming days on a $500,000 bail with GPS monitoring via an ankle monitor.
Montrage who had around 3.4 million Instagram followers of her page Hajia4Reall at one point from at least 2013 through 2019 was involved with a group of con artists from West Africa who assumed fake identities to trick people into thinking they were in relationships with them using emails, texts and social media messages, the feds said.
The scammers would then get the victims to transfer money to them under false pretenses such as to help move gold to the US from overseas, to resolve bogus FBI investigations and payments to help fake US Army officers in Afghanistan, court papers allege.
Montrage, in one case, allegedly duped a victim into sending her $89,000 through 82 wire transfers on the pretext of helping her father’s farm in Ghana, the court documents claim.
She tricked the person into believing the pair were married by sending them a tribal marriage certificate after a series of phone conversations using her real identity, the filing alleges.
Montrage also received money from several others who were swindled by scammers in her network, prosecutors allege.
In total, Montrage netted $2 million in funds the group ripped off from victims to bank accounts she had in the Bronx and elsewhere, including one opened in the name of 4Reall Designs, a supposed clothing company.
She then allegedly laundered the stolen money to other members of the enterprise, the indictment charges.
“As alleged, Mona Faiz Montrage was a member of a criminal conspiracy that specifically targeted older Americans through romance scams,” Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “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,” the statement continued.
Willy Bongeya Imamabo