Ghanaian socialite and social media influencer, Mona Faiz Montrage, also known as Hajia4Reall, has been extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States over her alleged involvement in a $2 million romance scam.
The 30-year-old, who was arrested in the UK on Friday, November 11, appeared in Manhattan federal court on Monday, May 15, for her alleged participation in a series of romance schemes targeting older individuals who lived alone.
Federal prosecutors claim that Montrage, along with a group of con artists from West Africa, carried out a long-running operation spanning from 2013 to 2019. The scammers assumed fake identities and utilized various communication channels, including emails, texts, and social media messages, to deceive their targets into believing they were in relationships with them.
Once trust was established, the victims were coerced into making money transfers under false pretenses, such as assisting with gold transportation, resolving fictitious FBI investigations, or supporting fake US Army officers in Afghanistan.
One specific case highlighted in court documents involved Montrage allegedly persuading a victim to send $89,000 through 82 wire transfers, claiming the funds would support her father’s farm in Ghana. The victim was further deceived with a tribal marriage certificate, leading them to believe they were married after a series of phone conversations conducted using Montrage’s real identity.
Prosecutors also allege that she received money from several other victims who were swindled by scammers within her network.
In total, Montrage amassed $2 million in funds that the group fraudulently obtained from victims, which were deposited into bank accounts she held in the Bronx and elsewhere, including one opened in the name of 4Reall Designs, a purported clothing company. She then allegedly laundered the stolen money to other members of the criminal enterprise, as stated in the indictment.
Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams emphasized the devastating impact of such romance scams, particularly on older Americans. “These scams can be both financially and emotionally devastating for vulnerable victims.” He said.
Williams praised the efforts of law enforcement partners in apprehending Montrage and ensuring she faces justice in the United States.
Montrage has been charged with wire fraud, money laundering, receipt of stolen money, and conspiracy. If convicted on the top charge, she could face up to 20 years in prison.
During her court appearance, Montrage pleaded not guilty and was expected to be released on home detention to her aunt’s residence in New Jersey in the coming days on a $500,000 bond.
She will be monitored through GPS tracking using an ankle monitor, as confirmed by her lawyer and the prosecutor’s office.