Moses Ettiene, 49, claimed he had been living in the Grenfell Tower when the fire started on 14 June 2017. Kensington and Chelsea council fell for his story and paid his huge bill of more than £47,000. He spent 325 nights in the four star Park Plaza in West London, he also claimed for his food bill during his stay.
Ettiene claimed he was out the night the blaze started, which claimed the lives of 72 people. However, he did attend the Westway Community Centre, where survivors were told to go to seek help.
The fire at Grenfell Tower sent shockwaves throughout the UK, it claimed the lives of 72 people and displaced more than 200 households. The Westway Centre became the central hub for those effected by the tragedy. It helped co-ordinate support services and volunteers with victims in finding housing, food and clothing before official help came from the royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The centre, acting as the official relief hub, worked with victims to ensure they were accessing the correct help from the council. This is where Ettiene managed to convince officials he was a displaced resident from the Grenfell Tower.
Suspicious of Ettiene police began to question his story. He refused to tell officials which flat he had been staying in, saying he had subleased the accommodation. But when questioned further, his story turned into an elaborate lie. He claimed he worked with foreign governments and his flat contained top secret government files. During his trial, Ettiene told the court: “Some of the files I stored were in the flat and because I cant confirm whether they have been destroyed or not, I am not able to disclose the flat, the location of the flat, the people I lived with, or anything about that.”
He went on to claim that because of his work with the US government mission in Geneva, he had been given diplomatic immunity. However, it emerged that he held no diplomatic status in the UK. Police investigated and analysed his phone activity, which revealed he had not been sleeping in the Grenfell Tower for the five nights prior to the fire and CCTV could not detect him either leaving or entering the building. The total cost to the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was £47,415.75.
Andrew Levin from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This is yet another shocking case of taking advantage of a community tragedy for personal gain. Although Ettiene did provide documents that proved he lived at the Grenfell Tower, these dated back to 2014 and there was absolutely no evidence showing he had lived in the building post 2015. The prosecution did not dispute the historic links Ettiene had to the tower, but was able to prove that he was lying and was not a resident at the time of the fire.”
Ettiene is not the only fraudster who tried to cash in on the tragedy. So far 14 have been charged and 11 jailed for similar behaviour including:
- Koffi Kouakou was jailed for scamming £24,572 worth of handouts.
- Elaine Douglas and Tommy Brooks falsely claimed more than £120,000 and both received custodial sentences.
- Joyce Msokeri claimed she lost her husband and suffered a severe trauma. She received £19,000 in cash, food and clothing.