Prominent Ghanaian “Influencer” Pleads Guilty To Receiving Fraud Proceeds From Romance Scams

0
235

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the guilty plea today of MONA FAIZ MONTRAGE for her role in laundering the proceeds of a series of romance scams. MONTRAGE pled guilty today to conspiracy to receive stolen money before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “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. Romance scams such as Montrage’s harmed her vulnerable, elderly victims not only in the cruel betrayal of trust in the realization that their online romantic connection was fiction, but by also callously stealing their money. This Office and our law enforcement partners are relentless in bringing fraudsters who target Americans to justice, no matter where they are.”

As alleged in the Indictment and statements made in public filings and public court proceedings:

From at least in or about 2013 through in or about 2019, MONTRAGE was a member of a criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in West Africa that committed a series of frauds against individuals and businesses in the U.S., including romance scams.

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 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 pretenses, 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.

MONTRAGE is a Ghanaian 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.

MONTRAGE received money from several victims of romance frauds who members of the Enterprise tricked into sending money. Among the false pretenses used to induce victims to send money to MONTRAGE 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, MONTRAGE controlled bank accounts that received over $2 million in fraudulent funds from the Enterprise.

  • * *

MONTRAGE, 31, of Accra, Ghana, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to receive stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. MONTRAGE also agreed to pay forfeiture in the amount of $2,164,758.41 and make restitution in the same amount. MONTRAGE is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty.

The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mitzi Steiner and Kevin Mead are in charge of the prosecution.

Contact
Nicholas Biase, Lauren Scarff
(212) 637-2600

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here