Four more charged over fraud in Grenfell Tower tragedy

BY JULIA GREGORY
Local Democracy Reporter
yann@slpmedia.co.uk

Four more people are facing trial for alleged fraud following the Grenfell Tower fire – and another eight cases are being considered, it has been revealed.

Kensington and Chelsea council has already paid out £775,000 to 16 fraudsters who have been sentenced by the courts for claiming to be victims of the fatal blaze in June 2017 which claimed the lives of 72 people.

The Tower in North Kensington was home to 350 people and 255 escaped from the 24-storey building.

The four people were charged after an investigation by the council, which passed its files on to the Metropolitan Police to look into.

Head of fraud Andy Wyatt said another eight cases were also on the desks of the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Detectives and CPS lawyers will decide whether to charge people in the eight cases when they have finished reviewing the files.

Mr Wyatt told councillors at the audit and transparency committee: “A number of them are with the CPS for them to make sure that they are quite sufficient to meet the threshold for prosecution.”

So far, 16 people have been prosecuted and sentenced for making fraudulent claims for services including emergency housing and hotel accommodation, following the disaster.

There were 10 cases in the second six months of 2018-19, after fraudsters were given £402,722 in services or support they were not entitled to after the fire. So far this year, two people were sentenced for fraud after they received £123,000 of council services.

One of them claimed to have lived in the Tower but gave the number of a non-existent flat as his home. However he was given a hotel room and racked up a £47,715 bill for his support before he was jailed for five years.

The fraudster, who was a former Grenfell resident, claimed he did “top secret work with foreign governments on renewable energy,” and told the jury he thought his “secret” files were destroyed in the blaze.

And in September, Daniel Steventon pleaded guilty to fraud and was given a three-and-a-half year jail sentence.

He claimed he shared a flat with one of the victims of the blaze, and was made homeless by the fire.

Overall, the 37-year-old pharmacy technician from Brondesbury Villas, in Kilburn had £54,099 spent on his hotel costs, £14,310 on hotel food and was given £6,876 in bank payments.

David Hughes, the council’s audit, fraud, risk and insurance director, said that immediately after the disaster “the need to provide emergency aid and assistance to those presenting as being in need was paramount in the face of unprecedented circumstances affecting a large number of residents”.

He said that quite soon after the fire, the council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Service got its first “fraud referrals” from staff and agencies which were helping with emergency aid for people who had lost their homes or were evacuated from buildings nearby.

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