Fraudster pretended family died in Grenfell Tower disaster
Anh Nhu Nguyen given hotel room, clothing, food and money after posing as survivor
Fraudster Anh Nhu Nguyen (in centre, black top), shakes hands with Prince Charles (right, obscured) during the latter’s visit last June to the Westway Sports Centre in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London. File photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
A man has pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to fraud after pretending his family died in the Grenfell Tower fire to get £12,500 (€14,000) from the victim relief fund.
Nguyen (52) showed no emotion as he entered his pleas through a translator. He will be sentenced on December 15th.
More than 80 people were killed in the blaze which devastated the 24-storey building, leaving scores of others homeless.
Nguyen 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 had lived.
Judge Philip Bartle said at a previous hearing that there was a “contemptible element” to the fraud.
He added: “The background to this case is one which has received national, if not international, news coverage. Because on June 14 a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower and a very large number of people died in that fire.
“It has received enormous coverage, there is an inquiry, and the ramifications for those people who are genuinely affected by this awful tragedy are very considerable indeed.
“This defendant has engaged in what the court can only describe as, if he pleads guilty, a despicable offence – namely claiming that he and his family lived in Grenfell Tower and that his wife and son died in it. As a result of which he received goods or money to the value of £12,500.
“Money which would otherwise have gone to the people who were genuinely affected by this appalling tragedy.”
He continued: “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, born in Vietnam and living in the UK since the 1980s, is a British citizen who 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.
Judge Bartle added: “It’s an appalling record and one which in my judgment is an aggravating factor.”
Nguyen went to Westway Sports Centre four days after the blaze, claiming he lived in the block and that his family had died in the fire.
Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay previously said: “This defendant attended Westway Sports Centre, which was set up to assist those who have lost property and family.
“This defendant attended on June 18, gave his name, date of birth and said he lived at flat 17.
“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.
Gave another address
“He then gave another address of another flat, there are other people who live in that flat who have confirmed that.
“Police officers were assigned because he was treated as a victim and when questioned in detail this fraud unravelled.”
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.
Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: “It is disgraceful. Fraud on any level, directly and negatively impacts our efforts to give crucial help and support to the victims and survivors of the fire.
“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.”
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.
“The selfishness and manipulation Nguyen showed has horrified those whose job it is to help the true victims of Grenfell Tower.” – Press Association