Conman admits to Grenfell Tower tragedy fraud

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.

Prince Charles meeting local residents, including Anh Nhu Nguyen (left, dark shirt, shaking hands), during a visit to the Westway Sports Centre in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London. Photo: Philip Toscano/PA

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.

Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay previously said: "He said he lost his wife, child and all his worldly possessions - he was given £100 cash and signed for it on that basis.

"He attended the following day and was given £260, then given accommodation at Holiday Inn Express, the current bill just under £2,000.

"On 21 June he applied for £5,000 and gave his address as flat 18 Grenfell Tower, but there is no flat 17 or 18.

"He then gave another address of another flat, there are other people who live in that flat who have confirmed that."

The family of the victim who lived at one of the addresses was caused "significant distress" after being questioned by police as a result of the fraud.

He was also convicted of lying to authorities that he lost his passport during the fire, in the name of Anh Tuan Nguyen.

Kate Mulholland, a specialist prosecutor from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Nguyen's deceit in the aftermath of such a catastrophic loss of life was breathtaking.

"He was willing to lie again and again, adapting his story when it was questioned, in order to profit from the huge aid efforts and outpouring of sympathy for true victims.

"At one point he claimed to have lived in a flat where the sole occupant had died. He also gave TV interviews in which he described the harrowing experience of escaping from the flat he had lived in for 20 years and losing his wife and son.

"CCTV showed that the day after the fire he was at a housing charity nine miles away in Whitechapel appearing happy and lighthearted and his mobile phone was located at his home in Beckenham."

PA


 

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