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Ghanaian influencer Hajia4Reall pleads guilty in $2M romance scam case in U.S.

Mona Faiz Montrage, a popular Ghanaian influencer cum musician, pleaded guilty to her role in a series of romance scams where she received over $2 million in fraudulent funds obtained from victims, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Wednesday.

Montrage, who is also a socialite and goes by the moniker Hajia4Reall, made a name for herself as a popular Instagram influencer. With more than 3 million followers at a certain point, Montrage was among the top 10 most followed Instagram profiles in Ghana.

In a statement, authorities said Montrage, 31, was a member of a criminal group “from at least in or about 2013 through in or about 2019.” The group, which was based in West Africa, engaged in a series of fraudulent activities such as romance scams, and targeted individuals and businesses in the United States.

The victims targeted by the group in their romance scams included vulnerable, older men and women who lived alone, the statement said. The criminal enterprise’s modus operandi involved sending their victims emails, text messages, and social media messages that conned the victims into believing they were romantically involved with an individual “who was, in fact, a fake identity assumed by members of the Enterprise.”

After managing to make their victims believe they were in a romantic relationship and winning their trust, the group then “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”, the statement said.

Authorities said Montrage received more than $2 million in funds obtained through the romance scams, adding that the victims sent the monies after they were tricked by her conspirators. 

“Among the false pretenses used to induce victims to send money to MONTRAGE were payments to transport gold to the U.S. from overseas payments to resolve a fake FBI investigation, and payments to assist a fake U.S. Army officer in receiving funds from Afghanistan,” the statement said.

Authorities also said Montrage handled bank accounts that the fraudulent funds were transferred to. The 31-year-old influencer, who has since pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to receive stolen money, faces up to five years in prison

Authorities said Montrage has additionally agreed to forfeit over $2 million and make restitution in the same amount.  

Responding to the outcome of the case in a statement, the 31-year-old’s legal team said her guilty plea is not a representation of the person that she currently is, GhanaWeb reported.

“In May 2023, Ms. Montrage voluntarily boarded the flight from Heathrow to JFK to face the criminal case in the Southern District of New York,” the statement shared on her Instagram page said.

“At that time, she took the first step to closing that chapter of her life. Today, she took responsibility for her bank accounts being used to receive funds from illicit conduct that ended in 2019. Ms. Montrage’s plea does not define her as a person and is not reflective of the individual she is today.”

“Ms. Montrage is thankful for the support of her fans, family, and legal team throughout this process,” the statement added.

Francis Akhalbey

A reader once told me I lack the emotional maturity to cope with mythological breasts. I support Manchester United, by the way. And L.A. Lakers.

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