A CONMAN who posed as a Premier League footballer managed to swindle £50,000 from Thierry Henry’s ex-wife.
For Medi Abalimba, football was a case of so close yet so far.
Trials atUnited and , a game for Liverpool’s reserves, a pro contract at Derby and games for Oldham were a backdrop for a career in fraud.
It stemmed from a desire to live the dream life as a footballer.
And yet, to achieve such a champagne lifestyle, Abalimba lived a life of fraud and crime.
With his career on a downward spiral in 2012, Abalimba was earning £300-a-week at Farnborough Town and adding to his wages with a job as a part-time taxi driver.
But by 2014 things had taken a drastic turn, and not for the better.
Claire McArdle, executive producer of the documentary, said: “It feels driven by a sense of a dream unfulfilled or snatched away.
“The more we uncovered, the more people we spoke to, the more astounding the deceptions became.”
Abalimba posed as former Chelsea star Gael Kakuta in order to live his faux life of , running up tabs of £15,000 at spots such as Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park, Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall and Millennium Hotel Knightsbridge.
A taxi company in Derby had taken the call from the so-called Kakuta, with the company’s sales manager recalling thinking “ker-ching”.
He ordered aContinental GT and a chauffeur, before going on an £11,000 shopping trip to Selfridges in Manchester that needed a second car just to carry the bags and a visit to a nightclub which saw him order £2,600 worth of Dom Perignon champagne.
Abalimba also took four girls from Manchester on an £1,100 helicopter flight over London, before having them stay with him at an £800-a-night mansion in Berkshire, which he claimed was his.
But it was his shopping trip to Selfridges which sparked his undoing, with a store detective becoming suspicious and calling the police as a security guard prevented his chaffuer from leaving.
The police tracked down Abalimba, who was eventually jailed for four years in October 2014 after admitting three charges of fraud, taking a Range Rover without consent and making off without paying for £104 worth of petrol, while other offences were also taken into consideration.
Abalimba ran up debts of an estimated £163,000, but with no assets or cash to his name there was no financial compensation which could be paid to his victims.
He was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) before he and his family fled to London amid growing tensions in the 1990s when he was just five.
However, even in jail he continued his schemes, enticing a vulnerable 50-year-old agency nurse working in HMP Moorland into a relationship.
The divorced mum-of-two smuggled in a phone for him before the relationship was discovered and she was sentenced to 20 months of jail time for misconduct in a public office.
Abalimba was released in 2018, and it did not take long to find his Georgia Steel.victim in the form of ex-Love Island star
The pair entered a six-week relationship that was never intimate, but saw Abalimba attend Georgia’s 21st birthday party in March 2019 where he met her family.
On the ITV programme she admitted: “I didn’t think he was a thief or a predator – he looked like he had– and we exchanged phone numbers.
“He fooled everyone. My dad felt he’d let me down when it all came out – that he should have known. But Abalimba was so convincing.”
When Georgia found out Abalimba’s true identity she confronted him.
He tried to deny it was the last time Georgia saw him, but it would not be the last time she felt hisof betrayal.
When she checked her accounts, she discovered that £32,000 had been spent, with Georgia believing Abalimba had copied the details on her cards before using them.
He was once again arrested for fraud at Kadie’s Club in Mayfair, London, in September 2019, but by then he had already sparked a relatonship with Claire Merry, the former wife of Arsenal ace Henry.
While in jail he spoke on the phone to Claire everyday for four months, telling her he had been dispatched to Kuwait on military service.
Awas later told Claire said she could hear sounds in the background “consistent with a military operation”.
Upon his “return” in March 2020, he met up with Claire, before she – like Georgia – found mysterious transactions out of her bank account, equating to £50,000.
Abalimba would admit to 15 counts of fraud, using a forged Illinoislicence and a fake debit card.
He was jailed for another four years and two months in September 2021.
Claire said: “The documentary was difficult to do, as it opened wounds. It’s not something I wanted to dwell on, but I want to raise awareness of these types of people.
“They know what buttons to push. I would say to anyone in this situation that it’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself.”
Abalimba also persuaded chauffeur Marc Bilton to spend £104,911 of his own cash to pay off his hotel, promising he would pay Marc back the money.
He did this by posing as the supposed agent for American Football star Tarik Cohen, talking up a friendship with Elton John and assuring him that Diana Ross – whom he claimed was his godmother – “only do with your company” when she was next in London.
In a statement to the broadcaster Abalimba disputed some of the allgetaions made in the ITV documentary.
Abalimba cited his failed football career as the spark for his trickery.
He said: “The way I dealt with falling short of my dreams wasn’t right. I sincerely apologise to everyone I lied to and used.”
Though Georgia doubts time inside will make him change his ways.
She said: “He’ll keep doing it. It’s all he knows. He’ll be working on his next plan.”
Watch Cons And Swindles: The Football Fraudster, Thursday, ITVX.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/24671072/football-fraudster-medi-abalimba-thierry-henry-wife-chelsea-kakuta/ Inside astonishing life of fake footballer who dated Thierry Henry’s ex-wife and pretended to be Chelsea star