Illegal immigrant couple jailed for posing as Grenfell Tower victims and claiming more than £125,000
The illegal immigrants researched the names of those who died in the Grenfell Tower before posing as survivors
Two "parasitic" fraudsters who pretended to be Grenfell Tower survivors "in the wake of human tragedy" have been jailed for more than six years collectively.
Elaine Douglas, 51, and Tommy Brooks, 52, who have been living in the UK illegally since 2002, spent more than £120,000 of tax payers' money after being granted pre-paid credit cards and stays at the Radisson Blue Edward Hotel. The devious Jamaican nationals had told the Royal Borough of Kengsinton and Chelsea they lived in a flat on the 19th floor.
The couple were only caught out nearly a year later when investigators realised the flat number they gave was actually on the floor below. Douglas was jailed for three years and three months behind bars while Brooks was jailed for three years at Isleworth Crown Court on July 13.
Sentencing, Judge Nicholas Wood said: "I regard this as a parasitic fraud in the wake of a human tragedy." He said both defendants had "high culpability" in a "planned and sophisticated" fraud.
The judge then read out a victim impact statement from genuine Grenfell resident Manuel Alves who said: "Words cannot explain how disgusted I am that these individuals have had the audacity to commit such a stunt. They have violated the real victims and have abused the system that has been put in place to help us.
Prosecutor Benjamin Holt also read from two heartbreaking victims statements.
Bellal Elguenuni, who was at home during the fire, said: "My wife and kids suffered physical and mental injuries as a result of the fire. My was in a coma for three weeks as was (sic) two of my children. I'm a community member of Grenfell United which is an organisation that was formed for fire survivors and bereaved families and to give supportwhere needed.
"As a member of Grenfell United, I have spoken to most of the residents of Grenfell Tower and the community. I knew and was friends with many. However, the fight for justice has been stalled by the fraudsters taking advantage of such a horrific tragedy. This undermines our fight, deflected media coverage from the more important issues and has affected our credibility as a community."
"The impact of a crime like this goes beyond financial gain for a fraudster and threatens those seeking justice... and the 72 people that are no longer with us. I knew and was friends with a great many of our community who sadly perished in the fire and their loss hurt us greatly."
In another witness statement, Edward Daffarn said: "The impact of the fraud on the Grenfell Community has widespread and serious consequences. On one level it impacts on both the bereaved and ex residents, reopening wounds that they are desperately trying to heal.
"It's upsetting beyond words to learn that the tragedy of Grenfell Tower is being used by individuals so they can exploit misery for their own gain. It's pouring salt on the wounds of the bereaved ex Tower residents to know that the deaths and trauma we have had to endure is seen as an opportunity for others to profit and exploit. I'm sickened that anyone should seek to benefit from my own misery and the misery experienced by my neighbours."
He said in addition to the "personal misery" the fraud has "wider ripples".
He said: "Every time the words fraud and Grenfell are seen together, the collective feelings of the general public turn in a negative fashion towards our community."
Detective Superintendent Matt Bonner, the senior investigating officer for Operation Northleigh, said: "I have previously described the actions of those who exploited the tragedy for their own personal gain as truly appalling. Not only have their actions exploited the aid and support intended for those most affected, but they also risk misrepresenting the Grenfell community as they continue to try and come to terms with their grief.
"My thoughts remain with the Grenfell community at this difficult time, the genuine victims who should continue to be at the heart and centre of all we do."
Author: Grainne Cuffe
© South West News Service