Federal authorities announced Monday that Ghanaian social media personality Mona Faiz Montrage, also known online as Hajia4Reall, had been extradited from the UK to the US for allegedly defrauding elderly, unmarried American men and women out of over $2 million in a deranged lonely hearts scam.
Mona Faiz Montrage, 30, of Accra, Ghana, 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.
From at least 2013 to 2019, according to the federal government, Montrage was associated with a group of con artists from West Africa who used emails, texts, and social media posts to deceive people into thinking they were in relationships with them. At one point, Montrage’s Instagram page Hajia4Reall had about 3.4 million followers.
According to court documents, the con artists would then persuade the victims to send money to them under false pretenses, such as payments to assist phony US Army personnel in Afghanistan, payments to help transport gold into the US from abroad, and payments to end fictitious FBI investigations.
After several phone calls using her true identity, she allegedly deceived the person into thinking the pair were married by sending them a tribal marriage certificate.
Prosecutors claim that Montrage also accepted money from several other people who had been defrauded by con artists connected to her network.
In total, Montrage received $2 million from the victims’ money that the group embezzled into bank accounts she held in the Bronx and elsewhere, including one she opened under the fictitious name of a clothing firm, 4Reall Designs.
The indictment claims that she afterwards allegedly laundered the stolen funds to other business associates.
“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 Instagram user, who had one of the top 10 most popular accounts in Ghana, was detained on November 10, 2022, in the UK for the alleged plot and extradited to the US on Friday.
Montrage is accused with conspiracy, money laundering, receiving stolen property, and wire fraud. If found guilty on the main offense, she may spend up to 20 years in jail.
Montrage’s lawyer Adam Cortez told The Post: “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.”
Until he receives additional details and supporting documentation from the prosecution, Cortez said he was unable to speak further.
According to the attorney, his client is currently only permitted to travel in specific areas of New York and New Jersey.