Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Hajia 4 Real extradited to US over alleged $2m ‘sakawa’

Social media personality Mona 4Reall, also known as Hajia4Reall, has been extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States for her alleged involvement in a$2 million romance scam locally known as “sakawa.”

According to federal prosecutors, the 30-year-old model appeared in Manhattan federal court on Monday, May 15 for her alleged involvement in a series of romance schemes targeting older people who lived alone.

The lady born Mona Faiz Montrage pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Hajia4Reall is set to be released on home detention to her aunt’s New Jersey residence in the coming days on a $500,000 bond with GPS tracking via an ankle monitor, her lawyer and the prosecutor’s office have confirmed.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the unsealing of a six-count Indictment charging Hajia4Real for her role in a series of romance schemes and for laundering the proceeds of those schemes.

Mona 4Reall is a public figure who rose to fame as an influencer through her Instagram profile, under the username “Hajia4Reall,” which at one point had approximately 3.4 million Instagram followers and was among the top 10 profiles with the most followers in Ghana.

She was arrested in the United Kingdom on November 10, 2022, and was extradited from the United Kingdom on May 12, 2023.

She was presented before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty, to whom the case is assigned today.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll said, “We alleged today that Ms. Montrage participated in multiple romance scams – often targeting elderly victims – resulting in more than $2 million in fraudulent funds under her control.

“Romance scams – especially those that target older individuals – are of major concern. The FBI will be tireless in our efforts to hold fraudsters accountable in the criminal justice system.”

According to the court, 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, including romance scams.

The court said, “Many of the Enterprise’s romance scam victims were vulnerable, older men and women who lived alone. The Enterprise 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 had, 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 said, “Montrage 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 Montrage were (i) payments to transport gold to the United States from overseas; (ii) payments to resolve a fake FBI unemployment investigation; and (iii) payments to assist a fake United States army officer in receiving funds from Afghanistan.

The court said in one incident with her victims she used her real name and spoke to the victim several times by phone.

“Montrage later sent the victim a tribal marriage certificate purporting to show that Montrage and the victim had been married in Ghana.

“The victim sent Montrage approximately 82 wire transfers totalling approximately $89,000 to purportedly help with costs associated with Montrage’s father’s farm in Ghana.”

It added that “In total, Montrage controlled bank accounts that received over $2 million in fraudulent funds from the Enterprise.”

 

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