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Hajia 4Reall sentenced to more than a year in US prison for romance scam

Hajia 4Reall sentenced to more than a year in US prison for romance scam
Hajia 4Reall sentenced to more than a year in US prison for romance scam

Ghanaian influencer Mona Faiz Montrage, also known as Hajia 4reall, has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison for her role in a series of romance frauds and money laundering the proceeds.

The sentencing took place in New York under the supervision of 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 complicity in receiving stolen money, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

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

Chronology of legal proceedings

  • November 10, 2022: Arrested in Britain.
  • May 12, 2023: Extradited to the United States.
  • February 21, 2024: Found guilty of 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 fraud, targeting vulnerable elderly people, promising to marry them but then cheating them out of their money.

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

Courtroom details

During the sentencing, the assistant U.S. attorney emphasized the seriousness of Montrage’s actions and the impact on the victims.

“The victims were vulnerable seniors. Some were promised marriage; they sent money and lost it,” the prosecutor said. Montrage’s defense argued for a lighter sentence, citing her abusive relationship with an ex-boyfriend who was also involved in the scam.

Montrage expressed his regret in court, saying: ‘I want to pay them back. As a mother of an eight-year-old daughter, I feel ashamed. Please have mercy on me,” before breaking down into sobs.

Meaning and consequences

Judge Oetken sentenced Montrage to one year and one day in prison, giving her the opportunity to receive “good time” credit, which could 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 defense requested that she be allowed to return to Ghana immediately upon her release to avoid being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Public Prosecution Service agreed to this request.

Broader impact

The case has received a lot of 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 general deterrence, given media reporting and Montrage’s influence in Ghana.

Montrage’s case underscores the serious consequences of participating in romance fraud and highlights the continued efforts of law enforcement to prosecute such crimes.

The influencer’s conviction is intended to send a powerful message about the importance of integrity and the legal consequences of fraud.

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