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A romance fraudster has been jailed for fleecing Thierry Henry’s ex-wife of £50,000 just months after being convicted of conning a Love Island star.
Medi Abalimba, 32, fleeced model Claire Henry to pay for a luxurious five-star hotel stay and dentistry work before she caught him out.
A court heard that he had pretended to be a Navy Seal named Miguel Johnson and was using a fake American accent.
Ms Henry was married to Arsenal legend Thierry for five years and is the mother of his first child.
Abalimba, himself a former footballer for Derby County, also defrauded a record label manager and two unsuspecting chauffeurs, bringing the total amount involved in his latest deceptions to more than £170,000.
The ex-midfielder was on licence at the time of the frauds after being released from prison for a similar crime involving reality star Georgia Steel.
According to an official at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Abalimba was jailed for 23 months in March last year for using Ms Steel’s card to pay for restaurants and designer clothes.
Abalimba, of Camden, north London, was jailed for four years and two months yesterday after admitting 15 counts of fraud that took place earlier this year.
A sentencing hearing at Wood Green Crown Court heard Abalimba met Ms Henry at a private member’s club Soho House in the summer of 2019.
Prosecutor Fer Chinner said: “He told her his name was Miguel Johnson and he was a Navy Seal and he put on a fake American accent. He kept that up throughout their entire relationship.
“In September 2019 Mr Abalimba disappeared – he told Ms Henry he had gone to Kuwait on military service. It is thought he may have been in custody at that time.
“They spoke on the phone every day for about four months. Ms Henry says she could hear sounds in the background consistent with a military operation.”
Abalimba got back into contact with Ms Henry in September 2020, the court heard, telling her his family were billionaire shipping tycoons.
The court heard Abalimba invited Ms Henry to “meetings” with figures including the Queen’s Private Secretary and Pippa Middleton. As they were at the last minute she was never able to attend, it was said.
In February, Abalimba stayed at the Corinthia Hotel for about a month using Ms Henry’s card at a cost of £38,000, arriving with a fleet of cars including a Bentley, Rolls Royce and a Range Rover and “trolleys of designer clothes”.
He would make excuses as to why he could not pay her back for bills, including that family members had died.
The court heard Ms Henry discovered the fraud in March after she found unauthorised charges on her bank account for dental work.
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It emerged Abalimba had recently received dental treatment. When asked about this, he put on a “performance of hysteria” claiming his grandfather had died. She did not see him again.
Mark McDonald, defending, said Abalimba had become accustomed to a certain lifestyle while earning £20,000 a week as a midfielder for Derby County.
He said: “That’s what this has been about throughout – the intent to return to a lifestyle way beyond his means.”
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