In the week fashion designer Elle B. Mambetov debuted her luxury womenswear collection in a virtual fashion show, her unbelievable story of being accused of identity theft and wrongly imprisoned for two years in a UK prison also came to light.
Elle B. Mambetov who has previously been featured in Vogue, ELLE and became a London Fashion Week designer at 26, never imagined she’d be a victim of fraud until the unimaginable happened. Hers is a cautionary tale that we all need to hear. We often hear stories about victims of fraud, but we never think it will ever happen to us.
In a recent interview on the Mel Robbins Show; Elle told how her ex-friend stole $50,000 from her and scammed around $1.3 million from other businesses. Elle ended up losing everything, her emerging fashion business, her property, her car, her dog, her reputation and even her freedom, when she was imprisoned in a UK prison for two years. But how did this horrific string of events happen?
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Elle B. Mambetov was born and raised in Texas, America but her career took her all over the world. It was during her time living in London, in what seemed like a usual day at the gym that Elle was approached by a man. He told Elle that he was a music producer and said he’d worked with some big names in the industry. He convinced Elle that between himself and his girlfriend who was also a fashion designer they had the right contacts to take her emerging fashion brand to the next level.
“He preyed on that trust he had as my friend.”
Elle was at a vulnerably low point in her life where she had recently ended a long-term relationship and had lost a child. The friendship developed and Elle genuinely felt like this man was a good person who wanted to help her with her career. So, when he asked to see Elle’s financial information including invoices that stated her bank details, Elle didn’t question his intentions. Sadly for Elle, everything she was told by her supposed friend was lies. She told Mel Robbins:
“He preyed on that trust he had as my friend. He was able to get access to all my business files because he said he could help me secure business deals. In the UK it’s very common that when you give an invoice it has the banking details, but he then made fraudulent documents. That’s how he stole my identity.”
Elle realised something was wrong when the money from the deals her “friend” had supposedly secured were not in her bank account. Things escalated rapidly and Elle called the police to report him and learnt that they were already investigating him as he was defrauding other people too.
Elle spoke about the shock of realising someone who she had dinner with, talked to on the phone and trusted could do this to her. Two months after reporting the crime, the man was arrested and charged with six counts of fraud. Elle also learnt from the police that they had found fraudulent documents containing her business name that amounted to $1.3 million.
“Elle got a knock on her door and was surprised to see four police officers, who told her she was under arrest for the suspicion of fraud.”
At this point Elle thought her ordeal was over, she was finally safe, but she was very wrong. The man who had stolen her identity was given bail, but he didn’t turn up to his court date. Several months later Elle got a knock on her door and was surprised to see four police officers, who told her she was under arrest for the suspicion of fraud.
That’s right in an unbelievable turn of events, Elle was now being accused of the fraud that she had been the victim of. Elle was told she would have to stay in jail overnight while the officers confirmed her story. Little did she know that she would be saying goodbye to her freedom for the next two years as she was escorted to a British prison.
As an American citizen, Elle was told that she was deemed as a flight risk and was denied bail. She was sent to a maximum-security prison and it took a whole year for Elle’s case to reach a court for judgement. In an unforgivable error Elle had incorrectly been classified as a British citizen on the prison system. Apparently, this mistake gave the authorities further reason to not treat her case as a priority.
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Elle documented the whole horrifying experience of her time in a British prison in her book A6347DW: American Captive where she alleges that her treatment in the prison system was very much a study in systematic racism, misogynoir and corruption within the UK judicial system.
She says she was denied the right to contact her government during the time she was falsely imprisoned. It took her mother writing to congress for the American authorities to be made aware of Elle’s case. The American authorities’ intervention led to Elle being finally released after 24 months languishing in a maximum-security prison.
Elle told Uncover LA what helped her to survive her time in prison: “I did think about suicide. It was a day-by-day thing; sometimes, I would just rock myself in my cell. I had a collection of Vogue magazines dating from 1985 all the way into the 2000s. I remember looking at things that I found inspiring; mood board things. I did dream about being a designer again.”
Judging by her wonderful new luxury modest wear collection, her wishes came true.
Read Elle B. Mambetov book A6347DW: American Captive