Victim who was taken in by serial con artist who won hearts with story of how she changed her life after giving birth in prison reveals she was left hunting for pennies under the sofa to buy food while another lost £100,000
- Mariam Mbula, who often goes by the name Mariam Mola, is from east London
- Last year revealed she has at least 13 convictions for 34 offences including fraud
- Victims speak out in a new BBC Three documentary Catch Her If You Can
- Tamara Gough says Mbula scammed her out of £100K after targeting husband
Victims of serial fraudster Mariam Mbula have hit out at law enforcement for failing to put a stop to her double-dealing for good.
Mbula, who often goes by the name Mariam Mola, has appeared on TV shows including Lorraine, and was hailed as a success story who turned her life around after she was jailed for fraud aged 18.
But last year it was revealed the 30-year-old Londoner has at least 13 convictions for 34 offences – 27 for fraud and dishonesty – and has been jailed in the UK, Belgium and Spain.
She was also wanted for leading a crime gang in Italy which targeted luxury boutiques with fraudulent credit cards.
Victims of serial fraudster Mariam Mbula have hit out at law enforcement for failing to put a stop to her double-dealing for good
Mbula – pictured during an appearance on ITV’s Lorraine in 2016 – has at least 13 convictions for 34 offences – 27 for fraud and dishonesty
Recently she found herself at the centre of a probe into the Spac Nation church, where she worked as a senior pastor. Dozens of ex-worshippers claimed they were forced to take out bank loans and hand over thousands of pounds to fund the church’s lavish spending.
One of these former worshippers speaks out in a new BBC Three documentary, Catch Her If You Can, along with other women who claim Mbula swindled them out of thousands of pounds.
Tamara Gough says Mbula scammed her out of between £77,000 and £100,000 after targeting her now ex-husband in May 2014. Since then she’s kept a close eye on Mbula’s activities, having teamed up with some of her other alleged victims.
‘I don’t know why the law enforcement have not been able to tackle this and completely close in,’ she said on the programme.
Mbula, who often goes by the name Mariam Mola, pictured, has been jailed in the UK, Belgium and Spain
Tamara Gough (pictured) says Mbula scammed her out of between £77,000 and £100,000 after targeting her now ex-husband in May 2014
‘It’s a shame that she keeps getting away with it but I have learned her pattern. She seems to know how to go underground, let things cool off, and she resurfaces again.’
Tamara told how she began to suspect something was wrong when she received a Vodafone invoice with an East London address on it.
‘The invoice was addressed to my husband then, and I’m just thinking, we don’t have any property in East London,’ she said.
Tamara later discovered her husband had transferred money from their joint account to Mbula – then going by the name Mariam Mola, which is the monicker she uses on her Twitter account.
When Tamara looked her up, she found Mbula would sometimes change her name on Companies House to Nopapa Mbula.
Tamara connected with a woman called Chemina, pictured, who knew Mbula from college – and claimed she too had been scammed
Tamara set up a Twitter account under a pseudonym – Clare Reynolds – asking for people who believed they had been scammed by Mbula to come forward, and claims she was inundated with messages.
Tamara connected with a woman called Chemina, who knew Mbula from college. Speaking on the documentary, Chemina told how Mbula always appeared as someone who was ‘super friendly and got one with everyone’.
‘We knew her as Mariam,’ she recalled. ‘I do believe I remember her being called Cindy as well. I don’t remember when exactly we became friends on Facebook, I must have posted a status that reflected that I was in a bad place.
‘She reached out to me via a message and we got talking. She was really giving me words of encouragement. It wasn’t hard because I trust people quite easily.’
Chemina shared with Mbula that her grandmother had just a few months to live and that she and her mother were flying out to Jamaica to see her.
Speaking on the documentary, Chemina told how Mbula (pictured) always appeared as someone who was ‘super friendly and got one with everyone’
Chemina shared with Mbula that her grandmother (pictured) had just a few months to live and that she and her mother were flying out to Jamaica to see her
She claimed Mbula told her she could get discounted air tickets through her work and urged her to transfer the £2,000 fare from her mother so she could purchase them on their behalf.
‘She dealt with it as matter of urgency so you don’t get a chance to have a second thought,’ Chemina recalled.
When the tickets didn’t arrive, Chemina said her heart sank: ‘I just remember thinking… No way, she couldn’t do this. Not to me, and not considering the conversation that we’d had.
‘I was on the phone and I remember speaking very slowly and very clearly, I said, “Mariam, if you have done what I think you’ve done, please let me not catch you out in these streets.” And then she switched off her phone and there was never any more contact.’
Chemina set out to expose Mbula, and claims she too began receiving messages from other so-called victims.
Chemina set out to expose Mbula, pictured, and claims she too began receiving messages from other ‘victims’
Another woman in the documentary, known only as Ellie, claimed Mbula befriended her mother while they were both in prison in Spain. At the time, Ellie had been left caring for her disabled sister and younger siblings back in the UK.
She told how Mbula was bilingual and would translate from English to Spanish for her mother and offered to help her arrange bail.
‘She was lovely, she was so sweet to her and she offered to help,’ Ellie claimed. ‘Mariam encouraged her to be as transparent as possible and give as much detail as possible so that she could hopefully get the best possible bail hearing, so my mum had given up all this information about us, our names, our ages.’
Ellie then received a call from someone purporting to be called Charlene, from the British Embassy, who told her that her mother had been granted bail in return for the sum of £10,000.
Ellie managed to raise the cash, but received a further call from Charlene asking for an additional £5,600 to secure bail immediately. After calling round she got the money together – but became wary when a final text from Charlene showed the Apple ID ‘mariamdynasty’.
‘I responded saying “who’s Mariam?” and I never heard from her again,’ Ellie said.
Another woman in the documentary, known only as Ellie, claimed Mbula (pictured) befriended her mother while they were both in prison in Spain – and ended up conning her out of £15,000 which cost her her home
‘I’d already given her the money and I instantly got this knot in my stomach basically telling me something’s wrong here. Now I need to tell my family I’ve messed up.’
Ellie and her family were evicted from her home as a result of the incident. She admitted: ‘There were days when I was having to look under sofas for pennies to just be able to go and buy pasta, and she put me in a state of depression that I didn’t think I’d ever get out of.’
Once she was out of prison, aged 24, Mbula launched a luxury shoe hire boutique called Cindys Choos, operating out of Westfield Shopping Centre in London.
Tamara claims she and her ex-husband had indirectly ‘funded’ the business, adding: ‘It was definitely a front for her to collect money, and people are not getting the products.’
She and Chemina took their allegations to the police and Mbula pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud in May 2015.
Mbula appeared on ITV’s Lorraine – an appearance that infuriated Tamara and Chemina as she insisted she was a reformed character who was turning her life around by launching a mentoring scheme for other women.
Once she was out of prison, aged 24, Mbula launched a luxury shoe hire boutique called Cindys Choos, operating out of Westfield Shopping Centre in London
She painted the picture of a victim, claiming she had been forced to give birth in jail after committing fraud under the influence of an overbearing partner when she was 18. Only to be convicted for the offence seven years later.
She told host Gaby Roslin on Lorraine: ‘I was in a bad relationship at that time and the person I was with committed some fraud. Because I was involved in that I crowd I was later sentenced to quite a heavy prison sentence when expecting my first baby.’
According to a report by the Daily Telegraph, Mola did give birth in a British prison but in May 2015, after being arrested for a series of credit card frauds between 2010 and 2011.
Another woman who appeared in the documentary was a member of Spac Nation church, called Sarah, who claimed Mbula made her take out a £5,000 loan to fund her lifestyle – which she is still trying to pay back.
Another woman who appeared in the documentary was a member of Spac Nation church called Sarah, pictured, who claimed Mbula made her take out a £5,000 to fund her lifestyle which she is still trying to pay back
‘The first time I met Mariam was around three weeks after I started at Spac Nation,’ she explained. ‘I was like, “oh my God, this woman is so wow. She is everything, she’s got everything I want, she is living the life that I want, she’s got money, she’s got businesses, she is a boss and I want to be that”. When people started calling me Mini Mariam… I loved it. Up until it went bad.’
Mbula’s house was supposed to be a safe place for vulnerable young churchgoers, but it wasn’t long before she was reportedly asking them for money.
‘That was her whole agenda,’ Sarah said. ‘Find people with good credit, or find people that haven’t taken out loans before, and just doing whatever she can to completely destroy it and squeeze as much as she can out of them.
‘Mariam would have large sums of money in her room at a time. She would hide it quite well, but it was always big wads of cash, I’m so sure it was up to at least £10,000, it was a lot.’
Mbula’s house was supposed to be a safe place for vulnerable young churchgoers, but it wasn’t long before she was reportedly asking them for money (pictured during a video message on Periscope, shared online)
Sarah said she became frustrated at Mbula when she failed to keep up with the loan repayments.
‘She has this whole persona of wealth, like, I have money to spare, and you can’t make £213.88 a month?’ she said.
‘Mariam was so nonchalant about the whole situation, that’s what really irked me even more, because I’m here panicking, I’m about to be sent to court on my birthday, and you’re off to Selfridges.’
According to the BBC show, Mbula is part of an ongoing police investigation but is still at large. In response to the claims made in the documentary, she told BBC Three: ‘Please tell your audience they can believe what they like. Here I am, an undisputed winner and nothing can change that.’
Catch Her If You Can is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer now.
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