Unlikely Trio Of Americans Caught In Failed Congo Coup

National flag of Congo Democratic on a flagpole in front of blue sky.

A Utah high school football player, his friend and a convicted drug trafficker are an unlikely trio swept up in a failed coup in the Democratic Republic of Congo stuck in the country thanks to a former car dealer turned militant.

Christian Malanga whose website touted his success setting up a car dealership in Utah is believed to have recruited his son his son’s friend and a business associate who moonlighted as a marijuana dealer to help him overthrow the DRC’s government.

Malanga died in the attack. He had painted himself on social media as a devoted husband and father of eight who rubbed elbows with high-level officials in Washington and the Vatican.

In 2001 he was convicted in Utah for incidents including assault with a firearm. He was also charged with domestic violence battery and disturbing the peace. He pleaded not guilty and both cases were dismissed. Three years later he was charged with domestic violence with the threat of using a dangerous weapon.

At some point he decided to leave the United States and return to Congo with the mission of overturning the government. He allegedly convinced one of his sons, Marcel, a high school football player, to join him in trying to unseat the leader of one of Africa’s largest nations.

The other Americans accused of participating in the coup are Tyler Thompson, a Utah resident who told his parents he would be vacationing in South Africa with his friend Marcel’s family, and convicted marijuana trafficker Benjamin Reuben Zalman-Polun.