Conman admits Grenfell Tower tragedy fraud
He posed as a victim of the disaster for almost two weeks and was given around £12,500 from charities and Kensington and Chelsea Council.
A serial conman has admitted pretending his family died in the Grenfell Tower fire to obtain around £12,500 meant for the victims.
Anh Nhu Nguyen claimed his wife and son were killed in the June 14 disaster and was photographed beside the Prince of Wales when he met survivors.
As part of his deceit, Nguyen spun a cruel tale to family liasion officers, describing in detail how he lost sight of his family in the smoke-clogged stairwell, police said.
But while a major recovery operation was under way on June 15, the fraudster was actually nine miles away at a housing charity, according to prosecutors.
He posed as a victim of the blaze for almost two weeks and was given around £12,500 from charities and Kensington and Chelsea Council.
The 52-year-old, of Beckenham, south-east London, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday to two counts of fraud by false representation and one count of making an untrue statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport.
The conviction comes amid fears that more people could have attempted to dishonestly profit from the tragedy.
The Metropolitan Police said in September they were investigating a series of other cases where individuals had fraudulently attempted to claim money.
Responding to Thursday’s conviction, Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, called the behaviour “disgraceful”.
She added: “We will continue to work with the police on any case like this that may emerge.
“I want to make it clear – if you are fraudulently claiming money that is for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, authorities will be tracking you, you will be found, and you will be prosecuted.”
Nguyen showed no emotion as he entered his pleas through a translator.
He will be sentenced on December 15.
More than 80 people were killed in the blaze which devastated the 24-storey building, leaving scores of others homeless.
Nguyen had first visited to Westway Sports Centre four days after the blaze and was given a hotel room, clothing, food, electrical items and money after posing as one of the survivors.
He was discovered to be a fake when he gave several different flat numbers, some of which did not exist and one where a real victim lived.
Police said he claimed to have been treated at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington for smoke inhalation – but no record of his visit was found.
Judge Philip Bartle said at a previous hearing there was a “contemptible element” to the fraud.
He told the court: “This defendant succeeded in achieving money out of the misery and tragedy of people who, unlike this defendant if he pleads guilty, genuinely suffered by this terrible fire.”
Nguyen was born in Vietnam, has been in the UK since the 1980s, is a British citizen and has 17 aliases.
He has 28 previous convictions for 56 offences spanning more than 30 years, including theft, dishonest offences, arson and grievous bodily harm.