Hajia 4Reall sentenced to over a year in U.S. prison for romance scam

Source: inncercitypress.com 

Ghanaian influencer Mona Faiz Montrage aka Hajia 4reall has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison for her role in a series of romance scams and laundering the proceeds from those schemes.

The sentencing occurred in New York under U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.

Montrage, known for her social media presence, was arrested in the United Kingdom on November 10, 2022, and extradited to the United States on May 12, 2023.

The charges against her included conspiracy to receive stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Montrage pled guilty to these charges on February 21, 2024, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave.

Timeline of Legal Proceedings

  • November 10, 2022: Arrested in the United Kingdom.
  • May 12, 2023: Extradited to the United States.
  • February 21, 2024: Pled guilty to conspiracy to receive stolen money.
  • June 3, 2024: Initial sentencing date, postponed to June 28.
  • June 28, 2024: Sentenced to one year and one day in prison.

The Scam

Montrage was involved in romance scams that targeted vulnerable senior citizens, promising them marriage and subsequently defrauding them of their money.

Over six years, 32 victims lost approximately $1.4 million. Montrage laundered the proceeds through multiple bank accounts she opened in her name.

Courtroom Details

During the sentencing, the Assistant U.S. Attorney highlighted the severity of Montrage’s actions and the impact on the victims.

“The victims were vulnerable senior citizens. Some were promised marriage; they sent and lost money,” said the prosecutor. Montrage’s defence argued for a lighter sentence, citing her abusive relationship with a former boyfriend who was also involved in the scams.

Montrage expressed remorse in court, stating, “I want to pay them back. I feel shame as a mother of an eight-year-old daughter. Please have mercy on me,” before breaking into sobs.

Sentence and Consequences

Judge Oetken sentenced Montrage to one year and one day in prison, allowing her the possibility of “good time” credit, which can reduce her sentence by a few days. Additionally, Montrage agreed to pay $2,164,758.41 in forfeiture and restitution.

In light of her sentence, Montrage’s defence requested that she be allowed to return to Ghana immediately after her release to avoid detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The prosecution consented to this request.

Wider Impact

The case has garnered significant attention in Ghana, with many following the proceedings closely. The U.S. Attorney’s Office emphasized the need for a sentence that would serve as a general deterrence, given the media coverage and Montrage’s influence in Ghana.

Montrage’s case underscores the severe consequences of participating in romance scams and highlights the ongoing efforts by law enforcement to prosecute such crimes.

The influencer’s sentencing aims to send a strong message about the importance of integrity and the legal repercussions of fraud.

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