Grenfell fraudsters who sought to gain from tragedy
THE devastation caused when a fire ripped through a 24-storey block of flats in North Kensington, killing an estimated 71 people, continues to be felt more than one year later.
For the family and friends of the Grenfell Tower victims - young families, couples, school children, the elderly and disabled - the destructive path of heartbreak and grief which has been left will never disappear.
Neither will the sheer terror felt and horrifying scenes witnessed by first responders and members of the public who risked their lives to save others and watched the huge block of flats crumble in front of their eyes.
As the survivors, nearby residents, members of the public and charities united behind a campaign for justice, some of the nation’s most despicable criminals sought to gain profit from the horrific “human catastrophe”.
What follows is a list of those fraudsters, including a former council worker and a “parasitic” couple who have been charged or put behind bars following the Grenfell Tower blaze.
Last month the former Kensington and Chelsea Council finance minister admitted to stealing more than £60,000 meant for Grenfell Tower victims.
The 39-year-old took the money meant for survivors using pre-paid credit cards, despite having no personal connection to the tragedy, which she used to fund trips to Dubai and Los Angeles, expensive dinners and online gambling.
She was charged with two counts of fraud by abuse of position, one count of theft by an employee and one count of money laundering.
McDonagh who was described in court as a “serial fraudster” who “lived beyond her means” has been bailed and a sentencing date has yet to be set.
Homeless Derrick Peters, 58, lied about living in Grenfell Tower to get a shorter sentence for burglary. He was put behind bars after falsely telling a judge he had lost all his belongings in the blaze.
His lies meant he put up in free four-star hotel accommodation worth £38,784, courtesy of Kensington and Chelsea Council .
Now Peters, who pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud and perverting the course of justice will spend the next six years in jail.
This includes a three year and four month sentence for two counts of fraud by false representation, 20 months for one count of perverting the course of justice and 12 months after being resentenced for previous count of burglary - all to be be served consecutively.
Tommy Brooks and Elaine Douglas
Tommy Brooks, 52, and Elaine Douglas, 51, were described as “parasitic” after they claimed to be victims of the devastating fire in order to freeload a combined £125,000 in financial support.
The duo claimed they had lived on the 19th floor of the building but they had been staying with friends the night of the tragedy. Douglas had claimed £67,125.35 and Brooks had received £58,396.89 in financial support after the fire as well as free hotel accommodation by the time their fraud was discovered by the authorities.
They were sentenced at the same court on July 13, with Douglas receiving three years imprisonment and Brooks receiving three years and three months.
Gamoota pretended his dad died in the fire to get hundreds of pounds in cash and a free hotel stay, where he racked up a large room service bill.
The 31-year-old was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to two fraud charges in June this year.
He claimed he had been living on the 24th floor of the tower with his dad, who he pretended had died in the devastating fire.
In reality he was living with his mum in Croydon and his dad was living abroad.
To make his fraud more convincing, Gamoota researched a newspaper article about one of the 71 real victims of the fire, and used their name and details - pretending they were his dad - to make his claims for free hotel accommodation and cash sound more convincing.
He also made Internet searches using the words “Grenfell Tower Fraud”.
Gamoota was able to receive £500 in cash, although he had applied for £5,000 and he received £910 worth of free hotel accommodation over nine days, and a £354 room service bill. He was sentenced to three years and two month’s imprisonment at the court.
Antonio Gouveia fraudulently claimed more than £50,000 after pretending to be a victim of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The 33-year-old homeless man came forward days after the disaster, claiming to have lived in Flat 42 on the seventh floor of the tower.
Gouveia claimed nine months free accommodation at a Marble Arch hotel, worth £155 a night, as well as £260 in emergency cash, a £249.99 Google Chromebook laptop.
His hotel stay alone was worth a total of £53,456.76.
The cash and hotel accommodation were given to him after he turned up at Westway Centre, a hub for the emergency efforts at the time of the fire.