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Faith Nyasuguta 

A Ghanaian social media influencer has been extradited from the United Kingdom to the US over allegations of swindling over $2 million from older, single American men and women in a twisted lonely hearts scam, federal prosecutors said Monday.

In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) indicated that Mona Montrage,30,had been charged with several counts, including conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.

Mona Montrage /New York Post/

She rose to prominence in her native country of Ghana, garnering 3.4 million followers under her Instagram profile name Hajia4Reall and enjoying a top 10 slot in her field in the West African country.

Montrage,in one case, allegedly duped a victim into sending her $89,000 through 82 wire transfers on the pretext of helping her father’s farm in Ghana, the court documents claim.

She tricked the person into believing the pair were married by sending them a tribal marriage certificate after a series of phone conversations using her real identity, the filing alleges.

Montrage also received money from several others who were swindled by scammers in her network, prosecutors allege.

Montrage Mona /New York Post/

In total, Montrage netted $2 million in funds which the group ripped off from victims to bank accounts she had in the Bronx and elsewhere, including one opened in the name of 4Reall Designs, a supposed clothing company.

She then allegedly laundered the stolen money to other members of the enterprise, the indictment charges.

Mona Montrage was a member of a criminal conspiracy that specifically targeted older Americans through romance scams,” said US Attorney Damian Williams, of the DoJ’s Southern District of New York.

US authorities claim that Montrage and her alleged accomplices used emails, SMS, and social media messages to contact victims using phony accounts that disguised their true identities.

After being caught in the digital honey trap, victims were persuaded to part with money for fake gold investments, bogus aid programs to help US soldiers serving in Afghanistan and, in a bizarre twist, a payment to resolve a “fake FBI unemployment investigation,” said the DoJ.

If found guilty, she could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail for each count if found guilty, according to some legal practitioners.

/My beautiful black ancestry/

The 30-year-old was arrested on 10 November last year in the UK and before being extradited to the US this month.

Appearing before a judge on Monday, Montrage pleaded not guilty to all charges.

US authorities have expressed concern about romance scams targeting older people and expressed the need to hold perpetrators to account.

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Faith Nyasuguta

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