A 22-year-old from South Jersey is accused of orchestrating a $1.5 million fraud scheme by using her social media following to target victims.
Kayla Massa has over 300,000 Instagram followers and 100,000 YouTube subscribers. On Feb. 13, federal authorities in New Jersey arrested and charged the influencer following a complaint that found Massa guilty of illegally scamming over 45 of her followers — many of whom were under 18 years old — and other businesses out of almost $2 million.
A recent Quartz investigation found that Massa would post photos of stacks of cash on her Instagram Stories and caption them with things like, "If you got a bank account and you are interested in making legal money, (hit me up) ASAP."
Massa would then encourage people who responded to the post to drain their bank accounts and give her their debit card number and ATM PIN, in an attempt to reassure them that she would protect their money.
Next, Massa would hide fake checks of stolen money by depositing them into her followers' bank accounts, using the names of real businesses, and would withdraw the cash before the bank could flag it as suspicious.
By the time followers realized what was going on and discovered all of their money was gone — and in some cases, the bank would recall the fraudulent funds and leave the accounts with a negative balance — it was too late.
Massa would then block them on social media, where she would continue to post photos of all the new clothes and luxury cars she was buying with her followers' stolen money.
The businesses Massa would label on the bad checks would also get in trouble. According to CBS Philly, a company called Factory Tune Auto Repairs was listed on the counterfeit checks and lost about $15,000 in Massa's scheme.
Factory Tune was able to recover the money, but other participants were not so lucky.
Authorities were able to link the fraudulent checks to specific stores and after checking security cameras, found Massa on film shopping and paying for items with the checks.
Massa wasn't working alone either. Police also arrested her boyfriend Jordan Herrin, her 19-year-old sister Leire and her boyfriend Erasmo Feliciano, 22-year-old William Logan, 27-year-old Alex Haines, 18-year-old Kevin McDaniels, 21-year-old Andrew Johnson, 20-year-old Jabreel Martin and 20-year-old aspiring rapper Dezhon McCrae.