Fraudster who claimed £100,000 meant for Grenfell victims handed six-year term
A fraudster who claimed more than £100,000 meant for Grenfell Tower victims has been sentenced to six years in prison.
Sharife Elouahabi falsely said he was staying with relatives in a flat on the 21st floor of the block, where a family of five are known to have died.
Sentencing, Judge Robin Johnson said: “In the aftermath of a tragedy you sought and received profit and attempted to obtain a permanent property advantage over others.
“The facts of the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy are well known. The effect on those who died, their families and friends, cannot be imagined by those who were not directly affected.
“The fact that the unscrupulous sought to enrich themselves with accommodation, services and money is all the more shocking in the light of the outpouring of grief and sympathy that followed the disaster.”
Elouahabi said in a statement through his counsel that he was “sincerely sorry”.
He appeared by video link from Wandsworth Prison when he was handed the sentence at Isleworth Crown Court on Wednesday.
The court heard that Elouahabi made fraudulent claims for around £103,000 of financial assistance and accommodation between June 23 last year and June 25 this year.
The 38-year-old claimed he had been out breaking his fast for Ramadan on the night of the blaze, returning to find his uncle and cousins dead and his possessions destroyed.
Faouzia and Abdulaziz El-Wahabi, 42 and 52, died alongside their children, Yasin, 20, Huda, 16, and Mehdi, eight.
Details including their names, flat number and floor were soon reported in the media.
Judge Robinson read part of Mr El-Wahabi’s sister’s statement to the court during the sentencing, which the judge said was “poignant, understated and entirely understandable”.
The statement said: “In committing this fraud the defendant has taken from the community, public funds and resources meant for genuine victims.
“He has added to the strain of the council, to police resources and on all the support services.
“We have had enough on our plate as it was.”
Judge Robinson said the fraud was perpetrated with a “considerable amount of planning and persistence”, as Elouahabi was allocated two support workers.
He said: “You were manipulative and clearly convincing for a number of months.
“You feigned all the symptoms that one might expect of a genuine survivor.
“The fact you lived locally and were part of the community that was so affected by the fire makes your conduct the more unattractive.”
Elouahabi, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to fraud on November 5, the first day of his trial.
He admitted making a false representation to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, namely that he had been living in Grenfell Tower and was therefore entitled to housing and financial assistance.
During his trial, the court heard that he had 28 previous convictions for 54 offences including burglary and common assault.
Seventy-two people died in the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London on June 14 last year.