Scottish Daily Mail
Fifth Grenfell fraudster said father died in blaze
Student, 31, was given free hotel stay – and tried to claim £7,000
A BUSINESS student who pretended to be the son of a Grenfell Tower victim to claim almost £7,000 and a free hotel stay was jailed for 18 months yesterday.
Mohammad Gamoota trawled a list of the dead then told officials his father was Abdeslam Sebbar, who had died after becoming trapped in his flat.
The 31-year-old – the fifth fraudster to be convicted over claims in the aftermath of the blaze – said he had survived only because he was attending midnight prayers at his mosque when the inferno took hold.
In reality, he was not related to Mr Sebbar, 77, and did not live in Grenfell Tower, but took the details from a newspaper. The victim’s real sons, who had been at the mosque, had a heartbreaking final phone call from their father, who told them: ‘I can’t breathe.’
Two days later, Gamoota presented himself as a bereaved relative. He was given £500 and booked into a Holiday Inn hotel where he racked up a £374 room service bill.
He tried to claim a further £5,000 – but a technical issue with his bank account prevented the money being paid in.
When the money failed to materialise, he called a social worker and demanded it be repaid into his account.
Gamoota, who was born in the UAE, yesterday admitted two counts of fraud which would have netted him £6,784. Passing sentence, Judge Robin Johnson told him: ‘Looking at your case I am satisfied that any right-minded person would look on your behaviour with utter revulsion.
‘In the wake of a national disaster you decided to enrich yourself while you masqueraded as a true victim. This was not a moment of madness.
‘You spent days in accommodation that was set aside for those who were griefstricken, homeless and no doubt in a state of shock and bewilderment.
‘That did not stop you tapping into the funds that had rightly been made available for those people.’
In the aftermath of the disaster on June 14 last year which left 72 dead, Gamoota approached volunteers at the Westway Centre and was assigned a social worker.
He claimed he had lived with his father for seven years in flat 219 on the 24th floor – an apartment that did not exist. In fact, Gamoota was living in Croydon, South London. He was arrested last October after police found his father was alive and lived overseas.
Officers found a copy of the electoral roll on his mobile phone, showing a list of people who lived in Grenfell Tower.
Yesterday Benjamin Holt, prosecuting, told Isleworth Crown Court that Gamoota had planned his scam from a newspaper article about the death of Mr Sebbar, a Moroccan who lived on the 11th floor of the tower.
Mr Holt read a statement from Grenfell resident Corrine Jones, who said the fraud made her ‘frustrated, stressed and angry’.
She said: ‘I find people lying about living in the building is disrespectful and distasteful. It makes me feel like I had to prove that I lived at that property – that is the last thing I feel that I want or need to do.’ She said that fraudsters had ‘caused harm to the community and the survivors’.
The judge added: ‘Bearing in mind what she and her family suffered, I consider this remark to be commendably restrained.’
Another resident, Manuel Alves, said: ‘Words cannot express how disgusted I am that the fraudsters have had the audacity to pull such a stunt.
‘They have violated the real victims and survivors by abusing the system put in place to help us. The actions of these fraudsters have totally ripped the heart and faith out of the Grenfell Tower community.’
Claire McGrath, defending, told the court that Gamoota committed the fraud because his partner was having a baby and he desperately needed some money.
She said: ‘When the tragedy occurred he saw a way of perhaps obtaining some money in order to provide for his partner.
‘He knows it was a foolish and reprehensible thing to do. Looking back now he is extremely ashamed of his actions.’
‘This was not a moment of madness’