A Ghanaian social media influencer has been extradited from the United Kingdom to the US for allegedly swindling over $2 million from older, single American men and women in a twisted lonely hearts scam, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Mona Faiz Montrage, 30, of Accra, Ghana, appeared in Manhattan federal court Monday for her alleged involvement in a series of romance schemes targeting older people who lived alone, prosecutors said.
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.
The social media influencer — whose Instagram account was among the top 10 most followed in Ghana –was arrested on Nov. 10, 2022, in the UK for the alleged conspiracy and brought to the US on Friday.
She is charged with wire fraud, money laundering, receipt of stolen money, and conspiracy and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the top charge.
Montrage pleaded not guilty during her court appearance and was set to be released on home detention to her aunt’s New Jersey residence in the coming days on $500,000 bond, with GPS tracking via an ankle monitor, her lawyer and the prosecutor’s office confirmed.
“At this time all we know is that there are six alleged victims and only two dealt with a woman and only one of them claims that he dealt with Ms. Montrage,” her attorney, Adam Cortez, told The Post:
Cortez said that his client can only travel in certain parts of New York and New Jersey pending her case.
The lawyer said he couldn’t comment further until he receives more information and evidence from prosecutors.