Hajia4Reall’s network to probed in alleged $2M romance scam – FIC
It appears popular Ghanaian socialite cum musician, Mona Faiz Montrage, popularly known as Hajia4Reall may not go down alone if she’s found guilty of fraud in a $2 million romance scam case currently ongoing in the United States.
Hajia4Reall, who was arrested in the United Kingdom and extradited to the US on May 12, 2023, to face six charges, has pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan federal court.
According to Ghana’s Financial Intelligence Centre (IFC), which is working in conjunction with INTERPOL and FBI on the case, all persons within the social and business network of the suspect are now persons of interest in the investigation.
Hajia4Reall is known to particularly have many associates in both entertainment and business circles in Ghana, and was an ambassador for some business brands.
The Deputy Manager of IFC, Shaun Henry Osei, made the disclosure in an interview with Accra-based Starr FM.
“Obviously, she’s not going to be working alone, she’s going to be working in a network. The evidence that you have access to will actually lead you to be able to find out who her greater network is and obviously, if you find her greater network, by instinct you will want to look at those people because then they become persons of interest.
The FIC is Ghana’s national centre for the receipt and analysis of suspicious transaction reports and other information relevant to establish offences of money laundering or terrorist financing and proliferation financing (ML/TF&P) and disseminating actionable intelligence to competent authorities.
The centre is appealing to the public to volunteer relevant information on possible financial crimes for them to take the necessary actions.
“You can report to the FIC for starters. We receive reports from accountable institutions, from individuals so you can make a report and send it via mail and you can even bring it personally. Some of these young guys we see, I know most have been attributed to fraud but some are into very legitimate business. They are into forex trade and other business… Forex trade, I’m not certain what the law says on it, but what I can say is that when it comes to crypto and other things I think as a country we don’t yet have a definitive position on that per what the Bank of Ghana is saying and usually when there’s space like that people are likely to explore.”
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.
She’s 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.
The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, 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 where she had gone to perform at the Ghana Music Awards UK edition and was en route to Ghana.
According to the court, from 2013 thereabout through to 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 that targeted mostly elderly victims.
The prosecution said Hajia 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, Hajia used her real name and spoke to the victim several times by phone, later sending the victim a tribal marriage certificate purporting to show that she 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.”
The court added that “In total, Montrage controlled bank accounts that received over $2 million in fraudulent funds from the Enterprise.”