Updated: Tuesday, 17th September 2019 @ 1:06pm

Man Utd flop jailed for pretending to be Chelsea star to fund lavish lifestyle

Man Utd flop jailed for pretending to be Chelsea star to fund lavish lifestyle

| By Jon Harris

A washed up ex-professional footballer who had trials at Manchester United and City before he masqueraded as a Premier League star to maintain his celebrity lifestyle has been jailed for four years.

Medi Abalimba, 24, was tipped for soccer stardom but was so ashamed at his career at top flight clubs floundering due to injury he falsely claimed to be multi-millionaire Chelsea midfielder Gael Kakuta to live the high life using stolen credit card details.

During one incident he duped starstruck staff into running up a £25,000 bar tab on Cristal champagne in one West End Club in London claiming ‘he was a Premier League star and good for the money’.

He also ran up a £12,000 bill at three London luxury hotels, took a bar in Manchester for another £5,000, scrounged suites in luxury apartment complexes and spent £11,000 on limousines saying he had an American Express credit card. 

On another occasion he took four starstruck girls from Manchester on an £1,100 helicopter tour over London before having them stay with him at an £800 a night rented mansion in Berkshire, which he falsely claimed was his home.

He also used another woman's credit cards to rack up a £4,633 bill at a spa and to hire a Range Rover at a cost of £2,397.

Abalimba was caught after he attempted to buy clothing worth more than £20,000 from a store at the Trafford Centre near Manchester on a dodgy credit card – even practising his football skills inside while browsing – only for staff to become suspicious and retain the items.

He claimed his one-time massive weekly wage of £4,000 left him with a ‘wholly unrealistic’ understanding of money.

It emerged he stayed in boutique hotels, ate in expensive restaurants, ordered designer clothes and travelled everywhere in chauffeur driven limousines.

In all cases the businesses have lost the money as the credit card companies have charged the costs back to them.

At Manchester Crown Court, Abalimba of Burton Street, London admitted three charges of fraud, taking a Range Rover without consent and making off without paying for £104 worth of petrol and asked for 19 other offences to be considered.

After the case Sgt Adam Cronshaw of Greater Manchester Police said: “Having spoken with many of the victims in this case it appears that Abalimba is a charming and charismatic individual who was able to call on his previous football experience and the fact he bears some resemblance to the real Gael Kakuta to deceive them.

“He was able to trick most people he came across and grew in confidence the longer the charade continued. He became so skilled in lies and deceit that his character went from being plausible to unquestionable.

“Abalimba told us that many of his victims treated him so differently because they thought he was a celebrity footballer. Unfortunately this trust and goodwill was misplaced."

The 24-year-old was born in the Congo and had begun his career as a midfielder in the youth teams of Crystal Palace and Fulham, before moving to Southend United where he was paid £1,000 a week at just 16 years old.

He attracted attention from several Premier League clubs early in his career and was given trials at Manchester United and Manchester City.

At Liverpool, he played for the reserves while the then manager Rafa Benitez watched from the stands and he eventually signed for Derby County in 2009 for £1.2million.

He was paid £4,000 a week and received an appearance fee of £1,000 as a substitute and £2,000 for starting a match.

But his career was curtailed by injury and he was sent to Oldham Athletic on a free transfer in January 2011 having failed to make a competitive appearance.

In August 2012, he was signed by Farnborough Town with a wage of just £300 a week and was forced to supplement his income with part-time work as a taxi firm controller.

Fearing his friends would dump him, he would ring a venue in advance pretending to be Kakuta's agent advising them of the imminent arrival of the elite sports star and used ‘compromised’ credit cards to pay for goods and services.

He took friends for a night out in London where he duped staff at the Cirque du Soir burlesque club in Soho into giving him champagne after convincing them he had put his credit card behind the bar.

When a waiter could not find the card, Abalimba said he was a Premier League footballer and was ‘good for the money’ by showing photos of himself posing in football shirts with Premier League stars.

He then racked up the five-figure bar tab entertaining a table of 10 guests, buying bottles of champagne which cost up to £5,000 each – even offering to buy bubbly for a man at the next table. 

In all he ordered two jeroboams of Cristal, each equivalent to four regular bottles, and used a microphone to invite the entire club back to his house for a party.

At the end of the night, it was discovered he could not pay the bill and police arrived to arrest him.

At the time he claimed he had been given a credit card by his French football club but the court heard Abalimba had caused the waiter to become a laughing stock across London's nightlife.

In 2013, Abalimba was given a six-month suspended sentence but just months later he phoned a trendy club in Manchester and put on an American accent, pretended to be the agent for Gael Kakuta and asked for a table. 

Throughout the evening he posed as Kakuta and ordered champagne worth £2,600 but at the end of the night claimed he had left his wallet in a limousine and told staff he had his credit card details on a mobile phone.

The payment, made using stolen credit card details, was authorised and Abalimba then pre-paid more than £2,000, telling staff he would return – and the following night he quaffed champagne with friends before leaving in a chauffeur driven Bentley GT.

Last July Abalimba went to Selfridges in the Trafford Centre where he chose more than £20,000 worth of clothing only to claim he could not pay with his credit card as it had been damaged.

He later phoned the store to try and make a payment over the phone using the stolen credit card details.

But just as a chauffeur was sent to collect the goods a store detective became suspicious and withheld the items.

Police traced Abalimba to a mansion where he had been staying and he later told police he regularly broke into lockers at a sports club in Camden and, using master keys, stole and used his phone to photograph members' credit card details.

It emerged in London he ran up huge bills during hotel stays, including: £7,000 at the Corinthia hotel; £3,000 at Mandarin, £2,000 at Millennium Hotel and £1,400 at Bulgari Hotel.

Officers found his fingerprints on a pair of Harvey Nichols shoes the fraudster had attempted to give out as a tip.

He also enjoyed drinks at several nightclubs and restaurants including the Gilgamesh, where he ran up a bill of £8,000 for 20 of his friends.

In Manchester, he deceived hotels including the Park Inn, Worsley Marriott and the Great John St Hotel.

He also attempted to book £4,206 worth of rooms at The Midland but was thwarted by extra security checks by staff there and he also tried to fraudulently obtain a £9,000 Rolex watch from a jeweller.

Police said the latest frauds totalled £163,000 but with no assets or cash to his name there is no opportunity for financial compensation to be paid to victims.

Story via Cavendish Press.

Main image courtesy of Chelsea Football Club, via YouTube, with thanks