Ghanaian influencer pleads not guilty to US romance scam

Ghanaian musician and influencer Mona Faiz Montrage, who was extradited to the US from the UK over an alleged $2m romance scam, has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

She appeared before a judge on Monday but is still in custody until all bail conditions are met.

Prosecutors said she was charged with conspiracy to commit and committing wire fraud and money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment.

She was also charged with receipt of stolen money, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, and conspiracy to receive stolen money, with a maximum of five years.

Montrage, popularly known as Hajia4Reall, and her alleged criminal enterprise are accused of engaging in fraud including romance scams between 2013 and 2019.

They had allegedly targeted older American men, women and businesses.

Prosecutors said they sent a series of emails, text messages and social media messages to trick victims into believing they were in a romantic relationship – and then exploited them for monetary gains.

In one instance, she is alleged to have extorted about $89,000 through 82 wire transfers after sending the victim a fake traditional marriage certificate.

Prosecutors have also alleged she swindled people under false pretences.

Montrage is an influential musician in Ghana with over four million followers on Instagram. There has been a feeling of shock and disappointment in Ghana.

But US prosecutors have said the charges against her are accusations and she is innocent until proven guilty.

She will reappear in court on 28 June.

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