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Fraudster fakes death to scam cash from victim relief fund

A man who lied that his family had died inside a London tower fire outbreak to get money from the victim fund, has been expressed.

A serial conman has admitted to pretending his family died in the Grenfell Tower fire to get £12,500 from the victim relief fund.

Anh Nhu Nguyen, 52, even shook Prince Charles’ hand as the royal met with victims, with the man having claimed he had lost his wife and son in the fatal blaze.

Southwark Crown Court today heard Nguyen pleaded guilty, having posed as a victim for nearly two weeks in the aftermath of the horrific fire while being put up in a Holiday Inn.

At least 80 people are believed to have died in the blaze at the Kensington tower block on June 14.

But callous Nguyen attempted to capitalise on the tragedy himself, claiming that he had been in a flat destroyed in the fire – despite really living in Beckenham, on the other side of London, at the time.

He even gave interviews with the media, recounting the moment he supposedly tried to escape the blaze.

Nguyen spoke of becoming separated from his family on the smoke-filled stairwell but had been told by fire fighters he could not go back for them.

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He described cutting up towels and wetting them to cover his face before waking his wife and 12-year-old son and leading the way out of the flat 17.

He said: “The smoke was like fog. You couldn’t see anything, it was very hot.”

Nguyen also described climbing over dead bodies to escape, saying: “I’m sad, I’m angry, I cry. It’s terrible for everyone who lost family that day.”

Having said he lived on the 15th floor of the block for 20 years, the court heard that Nguyen’s claims were distressing for the genuine family who had lived in the flat.

Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay told the court: “The occupant of the flat did die in the fire, and his son has been distressed in having to provide a witness statement and that someone would claim what has been claimed.”

Wearing a grey prison jumper and tracksuit bottoms, Nguyen appeared in custody at Southwark Crown Court today where he finally admitted two counts of fraud and one of falsely claiming he lost his passport in the fire to apply for a new one.

Judge Philip Bartle, QC, slammed Nguyen’s offences as “despicable”, saying: “This is an offence of fraud, but as I say, has a contemptible element to it; trying to succeed in achieving money out of the misery and tragedy of people who, unlike this defendant if he pleads guilty, genuinely suffered by this terrible fire.”

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The court heard that Vietnam-born Nguyen has an “appalling” criminal record containing 28 convictions for 56 offences committed between 1983 and 2015, a number of those for dishonesty.

He has previously been jailed for theft, as well as previously having been put behind bars for harassment.

DC James Tauber, the investigating officer, said: “Nguyen’s fraud was designed to make sure he profited from the support intended for the true victims of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.

“He went to great lengths to fabricate an elaborate story about his escape from the tower.”

Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Bonner said: “The distress and suffering caused to so many that night in June is harrowing. People lost their homes, all their possessions and tragically their families and loved ones.

“Not only did Nguyen take money, housing and clothing intended for genuine victims, he diverted police time and resources away from those who most needed it.

“We will investigate anyone who we think is fraudulently profiting from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.”

Nguyen will be sentenced on December 15 after pre-sentence and psychiatric reports have been prepared.

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