The social media mogul has been charged with a conspiracy that wrested $2 million from lone Americans
A woman who, according to federal prosecutors, rose to fame as a social media influencer with 4.2million Instagram followers around the world has been extradited to the United States, where she is accused of murdering lonely Americans in an elaborate international love affair for more than Cheated $2 million.
Fake love affairs have been identified by the US Federal Trade Commission as one of the most serious forms of online fraud, costing in some years more than $1.3 billion, more than any other FTC fraud category. In such cases, famous opening advertisements often feature photos of beautiful women and men with captions such as: “We have never met, but let’s talk about marriage.”
“Love scams — particularly those targeting older individuals — are a matter of great concern,” FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said Monday. “We claimed today that Mona Faiz Montagege was involved in multiple love scams – often against elderly victims – which resulted in more than $2 million in fraudulent funds being under her control.”
Montrage, 30, is a Ghanaian social media influencer whose “Hajia4Reall” profile is among the top 10 most visited profiles in her native Ghana, according to a federal indictment released this week. She was arrested on US charges and extradited to UK. Posts on the Instagram account identified by federal prosecutors show a young woman in attractive clothing posing in front of high-priced cars.
In the US indictment, she faces one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Montrage, who hails from the Ghanaian capital Accra, also faces one count of receiving stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of conspiring to obtain stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years is punishable by five years in prison.
“From at least about 2013 to about 2019, Montrage was a member of a criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in West Africa that committed a variety of frauds against individuals and businesses in the United States, including love scams,” prosecutors said in a statement on Monday.
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The victims were elderly, vulnerable and looking for love
“Many of the victims of the Enterprise love scam were vulnerable, elderly men and women who lived alone. The Enterprise often carried out the love scams by sending victims emails, text messages, and social media messages that tricked the victims into believing they were in romance “relationships” with a false identity, court filings say.
After members of the Enterprise managed to convince the victims that they were in a romantic relationship and gained their trust, they used false pretenses to convince the victims to transfer money to bank accounts controlled by members of the Enterprise were, according to the public prosecutor.
According to prosecutors, romance plans weren’t the only tricks used in the plan.
False subterfuges used to lure victims into sending money to Montrage included paying for gold to be shipped overseas to the United States; Payments to solve a falsified FBI unemployment report; and payments to help a fake US Army officer obtain funds from Afghanistan, the federal indictment says.
“As alleged, Mona Faiz Montrage was a member of a criminal conspiracy specifically targeting older Americans through love scams,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “These scams can be both financially and emotionally devastating to vulnerable victims.”
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One victim received a marriage certificate
Prosecutors say Montrage went to great lengths to convince one of the victims that the two were married.
According to the indictment, Montrage sent the victim a tribal marriage certificate stating that she and the victim were married in Ghana. “The victim sent Montrage approximately 82 remittances totaling approximately $89,000, allegedly to cover expenses related to Montrage’s father’s farm in Ghana,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Montrage pleaded not guilty at a court date Monday and was set to be released in the coming days on $500,000 bail and GPS tracking via an ankle monitor at her aunt’s New Jersey home, her attorney and the family said Prosecutor’s Office in the New York by mail.
“At this point, all we know is that there are six alleged victims and only two were involved with a woman and only one of them claims he was involved with Ms. Montrage,” her attorney, Adam Cortez, told The Post.
In some cases, social media influencers pose particular problems
Maysan Alobaid, a former research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Carey Law School, said money laundering “has become a bigger threat in the age of influencer culture.” According to Alobaid, there is looser control of influencers, making transactions easier and making investigations more difficult for authorities.
Montrage, who currently has 4.2 million followers on her Instagram profile, has been active on her social media accounts since her arrest in the UK on November 10, 2022.
On her TikTok and Instagram, she posts several times a month, participating in social media trends and sharing her lavish lifestyle.
In a video earlier this month, Montrage can be seen trying on luxury goods with friends at a Dior cosmetics show. Other posts also show how Montrage promotes products and collaborates with other influencers.