Drug dealer jailed over £86,000 Grenfell fraud

A drug dealer who received almost £87,000 in funds after falsely claiming he lived in Grenfell Tower in the wake of the fire has been jailed for more than six years.

Yonatan Eyob, 26, who was described as homeless but uses an address in Notting Hill, west London, was put up in a hotel and given a food allowance and pre-paid cards.

Drugs, including MDMA and cocaine, and seven mobile phones were found in his hotel room, along with around £3,000 in cash, designer clothes, jewellery and credit cards.

Eyob, who claimed he had been lodging with a friend in Flat 182 – home to a family of five who died in the blaze – pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation in June.

At Isleworth Crown Court on Friday, Judge Giles Curtis-Raleigh sentenced Eyob to three years and four months for the fraud, and three years and four months for possession of drugs with intent to supply.

The judge described the fire as “a disaster which shocked the nation”, and said Eyob was treated as a “bereaved survivor and given top priority”.

He said: “You were profiting from the deaths of those people and the fact that they were in effect silenced.”

The judge said Eyob had decided to “enrich” himself by “plundering the funds that were put aside for the victims”, adding: “It was a claim false and dishonest from the start.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said it is the largest known convicted Grenfell fraud so far.

Eyob received £15,918.20 on pre-paid cards, £60,945 in hotel accommodation and £9,968.36 for laundry and parking – a total of just over £86,831.

He was given emergency accommodation at the Holland Park Hilton between July 2017 and June 2018.

The court heard he had the use of a white convertible Mercedes and had asked for more money, claiming that he was finding it difficult to eat the food at the hotel.

Prosecutor Catherine Farrelly also said that Eyob had complained about the WiFi signal in the hotel.

Eyob was charged with dishonestly making a false representation for accommodation and subsistence between June 2017 and June 2018.

The court heard there was a piece of paper with a list of names and numbers in the hotel room, and there were text messages found which related to drug dealing.

A fire ripped through the west London tower block in June 2017 leaving 72 people dead.

Hannan Wahabi, the sister of Abdulaziz El-Wahabi who lived in the flat, said what Eyob did was “a stain on all those who died in the terrible incident”.

Reading a victim impact statement, she said the fraud was “another unwelcome extra heartache and stress to deal with”, adding: “The actions of this individual have caused me sleepless nights.”

Ms Wahabi said the fact that someone had taken advantage of the distress felt by those left behind for their own personal gain “really hurts”.

A rich portrait was painted of the El-Wahabi family, who died at each other’s side in the tower, at the public inquiry into the fire.

Parents Faouzia and Abdulaziz, 42 and 52, died alongside their children, Yasin, 20, Huda, 16, and Mehdi, eight, on the 21st floor of the block.

Catherine Gould, from the CPS, said: “Yonatan Eyob took advantage of a terrible tragedy for his own greed.

“He carried on his fraud for nearly a year, diverting funds from those who genuinely needed it and betraying the trust of everyone who gave him assistance.

“If his deceit had not been discovered he would have been eligible for a council home with free rent and council tax until July 2019.

“When someone lies in this way it is only right they are held to account.”

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