Comments Off on Grenfell Tower: Man convicted of £30,000+ fraud
A man has been convicted of fraud offences after claiming more than £30,000 in accommodation and financial assistance intended for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Abolaji Onafuye, 54 of Gorleston Street, W14 was found guilty on Tuesday, 11 December of two counts of fraud by false representation at Isleworth Crown Court.
During the seven-day trial, the court heard that Onafuye claimed he lived at a flat on the eleventh floor and was the brother of one of the victims who died in the fire.
He then claimed accommodation and financial assistance from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and from the charity Rugby Portobello Trust, worth around £33,0000 before the fraud was discovered.
When arrested and interviewed by officers on Thursday, 7 June, Onafuye maintained he had been living on the 11th Floor of Grenfell Tower. However during the trial he stated that during his interview he only claimed to have been living in Grenfell as he was suffering from temporary insanity caused by not eating during Ramadan.
He later alleged that he had been volunteering after the disaster and was rehoused as a result of suffering trauma during that time.
Onafuye also stated he had never claimed to live in Grenfell Tower and disputed the evidence given by staff from various organisations.
He will be sentenced on Tuesday, 18 December.
Detective Constable Carlos Araujo, who led the investigation, said: “Onafuye shamelessly took advantage of the support being offered to those who were directly affected by the Grenfell tragedy and he has continuously failed to own up to his deplorable actions.
“We will continue to investigate and prosecute anyone who is exploiting what happened at Grenfell and our thoughts remain with the real victims of this tragedy.”
Officers from the Grenfell Tower investigation team and the Coroner met the families of those who died or are missing and sadly presumed dead last night in a private meeting to update them.
The families were updated on the progress of the search and recovery operation, the identification process, the coronial process and the police investigation as well as being given the opportunity to ask questions. The survivors are also being updated.
A total of 60 people who died in the fire have now been formerly identified plus baby Logan who was stillborn afterwards. The number of people who are believed to have died remains at about 80. The final figure will not be known until the end of the search, recovery and identification processes, but officers believe the final figure may not be as high as 80.
Everyone identified to date is a person officers sadly anticipated to find within Grenfell Tower and their families are all being supported by trained family liaison officers. It is expected the search and recovery operation will be complete by about the end of the year. Following structural work inside the tower, from this week the Met has been able to double the number of search teams to help finish the search as soon as possible. So far a fingertip search has been completed in around half the flats, with those prioritised where it is believed people died. About 15.5 tonnes of material is being searched through on every floor.
The police investigation continues, uniquely at the same time as a public inquiry, with which the MPS is co-operating.
Detective Chief Superintendant Fiona McCormack said: "The investigation into what happened at Grenfell Tower is a priority for the Met and we are determined to find the answers that so many desperately seek. The distress and suffering caused to so many families and loved ones that night is harrowing. That night people lost their homes, all their possessions and tragically their families and loved ones.
"Outside of counter-terrorism investigations, this is the biggest investigation the MPS is undertaking and the scale is huge. Last night we were keen to help the families understand that this is massive investigation and it will take a long time. But we only get one chance to investigate and it is important things are done properly.
"We hope by the end of the year our search teams will have finished their work inside the tower and the formal identifications will be complete. We are committed to finding, recovering and identifying everyone who died as quickly as we can.
"We do now think the final figure of those who died may not be as high as 80 but we don't know exactly at this stage. We have analysed the thousands of calls received after the fire to confirm and eliminate missing people as well as looking at CCTV from the foyer who shows us clearly some 240 people who escaped the fire. Some of those missing person reports were mistaken and a small number were fraudulent. The process is ongoing but we now have a better idea of figures. However, we still don't know if there was someone inside Grenfell Tower who died who was not reported missing, and we won't know until the searches are complete."
Around 200 officers, drawn from across the Met, are working full-time on the Grenfell Tower investigation in a variety of roles including family liaison, search teams, statement-takers and exhibits officers.
The investigation is focussing on the construction, refurbishment and management of Grenfell Tower as well as the emergency services' response. The types of offences that may be discovered could range from fraud, misconduct, health and safety breaches, breaches of fire safety regulations or manslaughter on a corporate and/or an individual level.
So far the investigation has identified 2,400 different people to speak to, including residents, firefighters, police officers and other witnesses. More than 1,000 statements have been taken.
A total of 670 firefighters that were involved in the rescue effort have been identified, 340 police officers and a similar number of ambulance staff. They will all have statements taken. From those police officers, 340 Body Worn Video clips have been downloaded and they have all been viewed.
More than 2,500 exhibits have been seized so far, many from within the tower.
Officers previously said they had identified 60 companies that had been involved in the construction, refurbishment or management of Grenfell. That number has now grown to 336 different organisations. Each is being contacted to establish exactly what their role was.
Where their role is considered relevant, digital downloads of all business records are being recovered. So far, in excess of 31 million documents have been recovered and it is anticipated that number will increase. Specialist software will be used to enable officers to process and search those millions of documents in order to find any relevant material that may be used evidentially at a later stage.
The forensic examination of the tower is ongoing and will continue into the New Year. This includes photographing and documenting every room on every floor, paying particular attention to fire safety provisions such as fire doors, the standards of construction work, the routing of pipework and smoke extraction systems. After that, there will be a series of further forensic tests including reconstructions. Only after that work is compete will officers be in a position to fully understand what happened, what went wrong and what questions need to be answered.
In addition to this work, eight fraud investigations are ongoing, where people have tried to financially benefit from the fire. Two people have been charged, one person arrested and bailed and enquiries continue in the other investigations.
The MPS received a report on Friday, 8 September that a sum of money appeared to have been stolen from one of the flats within Grenfell Tower, taken at some point after Tuesday, 20 June.
An investigation into the theft is now being carried out. Survivors of Grenfell Tower and the families of those who died or are missing and presumed dead have been updated by the Met.
Officers have had reports within the last ten days of other possible thefts of property and money from another three flats. Enquiries continue and the police investigation will establish whether such property may have already been moved into storage by a specialist company employed by the local authority. The allegations were made after occupants of flats on the floors not damaged by fire were allowed to return to their properties to recover personal items and discovered the missing property.
Det Ch Supt McCormack said: "I can't tell you how personally devastating these reports of thefts are, for the victims, for me and everyone involved in the investigation who is working so hard. We have one confirmed theft and are looking at three more allegations and we will thoroughly investigate. We do not yet know how this has happened.
"We have 24-hr security at Grenfell Tower but this has been reviewed and some changes immediately put into place."
“In 2010 when we lost everything including our home. It was the worst time of our lives but we’ve slowly got back on our feet.”
“I’m particularly keen to organise and perform at this gig because – like the residents of Grenfell Tower – I know what it is to be destitute.”
A teenager who became homeless, along with her family, after her father fell seriously ill and lost his business, says despite that being the worst time of her life she’s learnt important lessons from it.
Now back on her feet, 19-year-old Shakila K, a songstress and student at London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) - is organising a special gig with other students to raise money for the victims of Grenfell Tower.
Shakila, who has previously released several original tracks including one to raise money for Help for Heroes, says: “The gig – which is close to the Institute - should feature some great performances from talented musicians; so it’s well worth coming along!
“I’m particularly keen to organise and perform at this gig because – like the residents of Grenfell Tower – I know what it is to be destitute,” she adds.
“In 2010 when we lost everything including our home. It was the worst time of our lives but we’ve slowly got back on our feet.
“Now I want to raise funds to help inspire those from Grenfell Tower to keep moving forward.
“It’s important for them to know that there are people who continue to care and – especially some months after the tragedy has faded from the media’s sight – haven’t forgotten about them.”
ICMP, based in Kilburn, is supporting the event by providing event planning advice and is also supplying the backline for the gig. The music college, which has been developing and delivering contemporary music education in London for over 30 years, is delighted to help Shakila with this project.
Paul Kirkham, ICMP’s Chief Executive, says, "It's great to see our talented students actively seeking to make a difference to people's lives through music. We wish every success to Shakila for this event."
“I really hope lots of people come and enjoy a good show,” says Shakila. “We’ve got some fantastic talent at ICMP and it’s great that so many of them have volunteered to help in this good cause. We’re also very fortunate to have some great support from the College and also from the people at The Good Ship.
“It’s amazing how many people are keen to help and we would love to make this show a super success story!”
Shakila K – The gig, which takes place at The Good Ship in Kilburn on Sunday 10th September, involves Shakila, 19, working with others from the ICMP.
Following the Metropolitan Police Service's statement that a Hotpoint FF175BP fridge freezer has been identified as the initial source of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Government has ordered an immediate examination of the unit by technical experts to establish the cause of the incident.
This product, which was manufactured between 2006 and 2009, has not been subject to product recalls and this testing will establish whether any further action is required.
Consumers who believe they may own a Hotpoint fridge freezer model number FF175BP (white) or FF175BG (grey) should call Whirlpool Corporation's freephone hotline on 0800 316 3826 or visit www.hotpointservice.co.uk/fridgefreezer to register their details for further updates.
At this stage there is no specific reason for consumers to switch off their fridge freezer pending further investigation.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said:
"The safety of consumers is paramount. The device is being subject to immediate and rigorous testing to establish the cause of the fire. I have made clear to the company that I will expect them to replace any item without delay if it is established that there is a risk in using them."
Customers can expect further updates from the manufacturer about the action it will take in relation to this product and are advised to follow standard safety advice, not overload plugs, ensure sockets are not damaged and check cables and leads are in good condition.
Business Minister Margot James wrote to trade associations representing all major household appliance manufacturers last week outlining the Government's expectation of action by their members should a household appliance be found to have played a part in the Grenfell Tower fire.
People with concerns about product safety can also call the Citizens Advice consumer service line on 03454 04 05 06 or our helpline on 0300 123 1016. The Government website on product recalls, which will be updated should further action on the product be necessary, can be found at www.gov.uk/productrecall.
A distraught friend of the woman who send final message whilst trapped in her apartment during the blaze
Nothing has been heard of the mother-of-two who used Snapchat to send a final goodbye to family and friends after becoming trapped inside her apartment on the 23rd floor during the Grenfell Tower blaze.
The woman, aged 30, had two children with her in the apartment and filmed herself saying "Forgive me everyone, goodbye", whilst praying in Arabic.
A distressed family friend of the woman has been told by emergency services that there is "no chance" that her friend and family might have survived.
A blazing inferno which engulfed and destroyed the Grenfell Tower block in London has already claimed the lives of 30 with more expected with hundreds of bodies yet to be found and multiple others in 6 hospitals across London with 18 believed to be in a critical condition.
Grief has turned into anger at the devastating blaze in the early hours of Wednesday 14th June at the council-owned tower block located on Latimer Road near Westfields Shopping Centre in West London.
Structural engineers have been working to make the building safe for firefighters to search - an operation which is expected to take weeks, according to MET commander Stuart Cundy.
Sniffer dogs are being used to search the accessible burnt tower block to find bodies, with no further survivors expected.
Although it is not yet clear what has caused the initial fire which engulfed the tower, it has emerged that the uncontrollable and rapid spread of fire is directly associated with the external cladding. The same classing was behind a similar fire in Melbourne in 2014 in which an eight-floor fire raced up 13 floors to the roof of the 21 storey building in 11-minutes.
The 24-floor tower block housed 400-600 residents and was originally built in 1974 and was recently refurbished in 2016. But residents were known to have made regular complaints, one being that the fire alarms didn’t work.
It is also believed the block, which recently had £10million spent on its refurbishment wasn’t fitted with a sprinkler system. The fire is reported to have started on the fourth floor.
Kensington and Chelsea council admitted it had received complaints over the works with resident’s action groups claiming its warnings about health and safety had fallen on death ears. Residents raised safety concerns four years ago but were ignored.
It is believed that virtually all the residents in the top three floors perished in the devastating fire, which burned at over 1000 degrees (1,800F).
Horrified witnesses have described the scenes, which include a desperate mother frantically throwing her baby from a window in an effort to save their life.
In response, the communities have come together as one and the local churches and community groups have opened their doors to those affected and appealed for people to donate clothes, towels, toiletries and more.
Charities have even donated food and water, the response to this has been so great by the community that some of the centres taking donations can no longer accept them as they have no room to hold the donated goods.
Members of the public from all communities and celebrities have shown their solidarity in an effort to help those who’ve lost everything. Free food and offering places to stay being just two of many charitable goodwill gestures being made. Again another example of the community sticking together at a time of need in England.