Jail for cleaner who stole more than £53,000 intended for Grenfell vicitms

A cleaner who stole more than £53,000 in relief funds intended for the victims of the Grenfell fire has been jailed for three years and two months.

Antonio Gouveia (pictured) claimed for 289 days at a £155 a night hotel, as well as cash handouts and food allowances, by claiming to be a former resident of the tower.

The Portuguese national, 33, had claimed he was living in a flat with a woman in her eighties on the night of the tragedy on June 14 last year, which left 72 people dead.

To obtain the name of his supposed landlady – Hermine Harris – he went to the post depot and asked if any post had come for him at flat 42 of the tower, then spotted her name on an envelope as the postal worker leafed through the mail.

He received cash and £44,795 in accommodation at the Cumberland Hotel, Marylebone, as well as cash and a free laptop from the Rugby Portobello Trust – a charity set up in the wake of the tragedy.

Gouveia admitted two counts of fraud by false representation between June 20 and April 5 at his first appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Jailing him for three years and two months on Thursday, Judge Giles Curtis-Raleigh said: “Most people reacted with horror and dismay, and feelings of deep sympathy and profound concern for the survivors, and those others most directly affected.

“Many did what they could to help in a spontaneous outpouring of generosity and compassion.

“Your response was different – you decided to use the situation to your personal advantage, to enrich yourself dishonestly by plundering the public funds put aside to assist genuine victims of that disaster in their hour of need.”

Mary Van Woodenberg, for Gouveia, said the father of two had been sleeping rough for eight months before the disaster and was simply carrying his possessions to his various cleaning jobs.

She said he had been so terrified of losing his visiting rights to his children if he fell behind on child support that he had sacrificed the roof over his head in order to provide for them.

“He’s not a hardened criminal or a man who did this for financial gain, but a desperate man who did this out of necessity,” she said.

Judge Curtis-Raleigh said: “You were homeless. Sadly, homelessness is a fact of life for many, but few indeed would contemplate stooping as low as you have by acting in this way.”

Mrs Harris – the woman whom Gouveia claimed to live with – described his actions as “pouring salt on the wounds of an already difficult situation”.

Edward Daffarn, a representative of survivors through the Grenfell Action Group, said: “Every time the word fraud and Grenfell are seen together, the collective feelings of the general public turn in a negative fashion towards our community.

“The actions of a few criminals paint our community in a negative light and deflect away from the real issues that we need to deal with.”

Gouveia is the 11th person to be charged with a fraud offence relating to Grenfell.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Metropolitan Police / PA Wire.