Grenfell fraudster Sharife Elouahabi jailed over false claims

21 November 2018, 11:28 | Updated: 21 November 2018, 20:19

A man who falsely claimed his relatives died in Grenfell Tower and secured more than £100,000 meant for victims has been jailed.

Sharife Elouahabi has been sentenced to six years for making false representations to Kensington and Chelsea council.

He told authorities he had suffered "constant nightmares" after claiming that his uncle and cousins had died in the blaze.

The 38-year-old from Kensington, west London, told authorities that he had been living with his uncle in the tower block in June 2017.

He claimed to be a member of the El-Wahabi family, five of whom died in the tragedy, but had no connection to them at all.

Elouahabi received around £103,000 in accommodation, travel costs and maintenance but raised suspicions with his behaviour.

When police checked CCTV they found no sign of him ever entering the building and could not place his mobile phone signal in the area.

He pleaded guilty to one count of fraud as his trial at Isleworth Crown Court was due to begin.

Judge Robin Johnson said: "The nation was shocked by this terrible event.

"In the aftermath of a tragedy, you sought to obtain a profit. There was significant planning."

The judge also read part of a statement from El-Wahabi's sister, which 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."

Mr Elouahabi's legal team told the court he is "severely sorry" for his actions and is suffering from depression.

Damaris Lakin, senior crown prosecutor at the CPS, said: "Sharif Elouahabi knowingly misled the teams dealing with the tragedy of the Grenfell fire.

"He was provided with emergency accommodation for a year, and when his deceit was uncovered he tried to persuade a relative to lie for him.

"The relatives of the people who he said he had been staying with were forced to refute his claims, causing them extreme distress.

"We hope this late guilty plea goes some way to comforting them."

Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith, deputy leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, called the fraud "disgraceful" and said the issue was being taken "very seriously".

"We will pursue all legal avenues available to recover taxpayers money that was fraudulently claimed by individuals that were not affected by the Grenfell tragedy," she added.