Social media can be deceiving.
Ghanian influencer Mona Faiz Montrage, 30, who the FBI says once had 3.6 million followers on Instagram under the profile “Hajia4Reall,” showcased an opulent lifestyle of traveling, shopping and life as a musician. The account is still up today (with 4.2 million followers); if it’s under her control, the most recent post was from seven days ago.
However, amid her overseas adventures and shopping sprees, the influencer was allegedly involved in a “romance scheme” that stole nearly $2 million from elderly Americans.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Montrage was a member of a criminal organization based in West Africa and, from at least 2013 to 2019, she engaged in a series of romance schemes that preyed on older, “vulnerable” Americans. Montrage was arrested in the UK in November 2022 and extradited to New York on Friday.
Montrage was allegedly one of many in the organization who communicated with elderly victims via text messages, emails and social media to feign a romantic relationship. Then, once the organization had “gained their trust,” its members convinced the victims to transfer funds to accounts controlled by the criminal enterprise.
“Romance scams — especially those that target older individuals — are of major concern,” Michael J. Driscoll, assistant director in charge of the New York Field Office of the FBI, said in a statement. “The FBI will be tireless in our efforts to hold fraudsters accountable in the criminal justice system.”
Related: A Retired Teacher and Her Daughter Were Scammed Out of $200,000 Over Email: ‘I’m 69 Years Old and Now I’m Broke and Homeless’
One of Montrage’s victims was tricked into thinking they were married in Ghana after being sent a tribal marriage certificate. Over the course of their perceived relationship, the victim sent Montrage 82 wire transfers totaling nearly $89,000.
Montrage is facing six different charges, including wire fraud and money laundering. Some of her charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
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