A fraudster who pretended that his family died in the Grenfell Tower fire to get money from a victims fund has been jailed.
Appearing at Southwark Crown Court, Anh Nhu Nguyen was sentenced to 21 months in prison for defrauding more than £10,000 from charities and the local council.
Nguyen claimed his wife and son died in the tragedy and was pictured shaking hands with the Prince of Wales when he met survivors.
The man even spoke to Sky News at the time of the disaster and described the shock of seeing dead bodies.
The last time I saw my son and wife was on the 12th floor, he said during an interview. It (the smoke) was like snow, like fog, you can’t see. It was too dark to see. You can’t see anything. I couldn’t breathe. I was like that – like I got a heart attack for 20 minutes.
At his sentencing, the 53-year-old, of Beckenham, southeast London, showed no emotion as he learned his fate.
Judge Philip Bartle QC said Nguyen knew full well what the consequences of his actions were.
I do not accept that the acts were in some way an attempt to be part of a community and that you were in some way reaching out in order to be embraced by that community, he said.
I am sure from everything I have seen… that despite your low IQ you knew full well what you were doing.
You knew that you were taking advantage of these genuine victims at this terrible time of this terrible tragedy.
The court heard that Nguyen recalled to family liaison officers how he lost sight of his family in a smoke-clogged stairwell.
But the prosecution said while a major recovery operation was under way the day after the deadly blaze, Nguyen was nine miles away at a housing charity.
Defence barrister Keima Payton told the court that a report prepared by a psychologist found Nguyen had an astonishingly low IQ that put him in the bottom 2.5% of people in Britain.
It found that he was suffering from long-term, untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and low empathy.
Part of the reason why Nguyen acted the way he did was to feel part of a group, to be looked after, wanted and welcome, the report concluded.
Nguyen received around £11,270 from charities and Kensington and Chelsea Council, the court heard.
The defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation and one count of making an untrue statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport at a previous hearing in November.
Nguyen was born in Vietnam and came to the UK in the 1980s. The British citizen had 17 aliases, the court heard.
He has 28 previous convictions for 56 offences over more than 30 years, including theft, dishonesty offences, arson and grievous bodily harm.