THE UK CON ARTIST WHO TRICKED HER WAY into the hearts of the rich + famous
ABOVE + BELOW – Mariam Mbula (aka: Mariam Mola)
To her admirers, among them the Duchess of Cambridge’s favourite dress designer, Mariam Mola is a true inspiration.
Her tale of giving birth in prison for a fraud committed a decade ago when she was an impressionable 18-year-old appalled those who heard it – among them influential female business leaders who flocked to give her their support.
Her story, which was shared with millions of morning television viewers, provided Miss Mola, 27, with the springboard to start a company offering business mentoring to women who were willing to pay up to £200 to attend events at glamorous locations, such as the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, and at Burberry’s flagship store in the capital.
Amanda Wakeley, the fashion designer, whose clothes are regularly worn by the Duchess, is a supporter of Miss Mola’s Mentor Matcher, appearing prominently on the front page of its website.
But The Daily Telegraph can disclose that Miss Mola’s claims are not all they appear to be. In fact, her real name is Mariam Mbula, who on one occasion preyed on a woman with a Down’s syndrome daughter in order to trick her family out of more than £15,000 by posing as a Foreign Office official.
Mbula also uses other pseudonyms, including Nopapa Mbula and Cindy Mbula. Far from being an innocent 18-year-old caught up in a single crime perpetrated by a much older boyfriend, Mbula was a career con artist, who had been jailed not only in the UK but also in Belgium and Spain. She was also wanted on suspicion of leading a crime gang in Italy.
In total, Mbula has at least 13 convictions for 34 offences; 27 of those are for “fraud and dishonesty,” according to Det Sgt David Vint of the Metropolitan Police, who has investigated her for 18 months.
Mbula, from east London, most recently received a 24-month suspended sentence at Southwark Crown Court on July 1 this year. She pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud, following her arrest in Nov 2014.
The court heard that on July 17 2013, Mbula had “dishonestly made a false representation”, claiming to be an official from the British consulate in Spain.
She had been jailed in Spain for fraud and while in prison befriended her cellmate, a British woman with two daughters in the UK, one of whom who has Down’s syndrome.
Mbula was freed before her cellmate and then contacted the family in Britain, posing as an embassy official. She telephoned one of the daughters and explained that because her sister had Down’s syndrome her mother was eligible for early release. All she had to do was deposit £15,600 in a bank account as surety and the mother would be released. It was, of course, a scam.
Then, in August 2014, Mbula was at it again. This time, she claimed to be working with Nike, the sportswear company. She told her victim that she could make the woman’s daughter the global face of the brand. The victim duly handed over £11,400.
A few months later, on Nov 24, 2014, Mbula again conned her victim out of £18,214.96 by selling her numerous designer clothes, which she never delivered. A further set of alleged offences were allowed to remain on file, including swindling a number of women over a designer shoe business, called Cindy’s Choos, which she set up in 2014.
One victim, Natasha Bendell, 32, a mother-of-three, told The Telegraph how Mbula, going by the name of Cindy, had taken more than £655 from her for Christian Louboutin shoes that she had hoped to wear on her wedding day. The shoes never arrived and Mbula vanished with the money in June 2014.
“She is a total crook,” said Mrs Bendell, from Reading.
Mrs Bendell was staggered to see Mbula appear on daytime television – using the name Mariam Mola – describing how she had turned her life around after giving birth in jail in May 2015.
Mbula told her interviewer, Gaby Roslin, who presents ITV’s Lorraine, that she had been caught up in a fraud committed by a former partner almost a decade ago. “I was in a bad relationship at that time,” Mbula told Roslin, “and the person I was with committed some fraud and because I was involved in that crowd I was later sentenced to quite a heavy prison sentence when expecting my first baby.”
It is a claim she has repeated in newspapers and also at a series of Mentor Matcher events. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Mentor Matcher.
Another victim, Chemina Dixon, 29, was also astonished by the claims. Mbula had stolen £1,600 from her mother, promising to buy her cheap flights to Jamaica to visit Miss Dixon’s sick grandmother. Mbula took the money but the airline tickets never materialised.
Mbula did give birth in a UK prison after being jailed in May 2015 at Basil-don Crown Court. She had been arrested in February the previous year by Essex police for a series of credit and bank card frauds committed between March 2010 and June 2011. It had taken time for police to catch up with her because she was serving prison sentences in Spain and Belgium prior to her arrest on her return to the UK.
Mbula, when approached by The Telegraph at the Bulgari Hotel event yesterday, declined to comment. She also failed to respond to email requests for comment.
A spokesman for Amanda Wakeley said the fashion designer was approached by Mbula at the start of the year and that Wakeley had decided to support her mentoring company. Other entrepreneurs had also joined in, said Miss Wakeley’s spokesman.
When The Telegraph pointed out Mbula’s long record of convictions, the spokesman replied: “As you can imagine, we are naturally shocked. We are discussing this internally and will get back to you.”
He later refused to say if Miss Wakeley would carry on endorsing Mentor Matcher.
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