Hajia4Real pleads guilty in $2m romance scam case

Ghanaian social media personality Mona Faiz Montrage, popularly known as Hajia4Real, has pleaded guilty in the $2m romance scam case in the United States (U.S).

Information on the US Attorney’s Office website, says she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to receive stolen money on Wednesday, February 21.

This charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced the development.

“Mona Faiz Montrage knowingly received money stolen from older Americans through romance scams and was arrested abroad and now faces serious consequences for her actions,” he said.

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Attorney Williams insisted that the romance scam harmed vulnerable, elderly victims who had to face the tough reality that their romantic connections online were fake.

“This Office and our law enforcement partners are relentless in bringing fraudsters who target Americans to justice, no matter where they are,” he added.

Hajia4Real has also agreed to pay forfeiture for $2,164,758.41 and make restitution in the same amount.

She is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty later.

Background

Hajia4Reall was extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom over her alleged involvement in a $2 million romance scam locally called ‘sakawa’ targeting older, single Americans, in May 2023.

Prosecutors said she was charged with conspiracy to commit and committing wire fraud and money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

She was also charged with receipt of stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, and conspiracy to receive stolen money, with a maximum of five years.

According to the prosecution, from at least in or about 2013 through in or about 2019, the Influencer was a member of a Criminal Enterprise based in Ghana that committed a series of frauds against individuals and businesses in the United States.

The Enterprise, they indicated, frequently conducted the romance scams by sending the victims emails, text messages, and social media messages that deceived the victims into believing that they were in romantic relationships with a person who was, in fact, a fake identity assumed by members of the Enterprise.

Once members of the Enterprise had successfully convinced victims that they were in a romantic relationship and had gained their trust, they convinced the victims, under false pretences, 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 prosecution noted that Hajia4Reall received money from several victims of romance frauds whom members of the Enterprise tricked into sending money.

Among the false pretences used to induce victims to send money to Hajia4Reall 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.

In total, Hajia4Reall controlled bank accounts that received over $2 million in fraudulent funds from the Enterprise.

But, the socialite initially pleaded not guilty to all charges in May 2023 and was later released on bail.

On June 26, 2023, she reiterated her innocence in a now-deleted post on Instagram. She expressed appreciation to her fans for “your love and prayers showed to me during these difficult times.”

She added that it is only a matter of time before she is vindicated.

“There is a time for everything, and the world will come to know the truth, and my story will be heard,” she wrote in the caption.

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