British citizen Anh Nhu Nguyen claimed to be a survivor of the infamous Grenfell tower fire. He was then pictured beside Prince Charles and gave television interviews posing a survivor.
He even claimed his wife and son died and posed as a victim for a period of nearly two weeks as he picked up about £12,500 ($16,000) from charities and Kensington and Chelsea council.
Now authorities have discovered Nguyen is a con artist with a long record and he never lived in Grenfell tower.
The 52-year-old pleaded guilty at Southwark crown court on Thursday to two counts of fraud by false representation and one count of making an untrue statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport.
Nguyen was given a hotel room, clothing, food, electrical items and money. He was discovered to be a fake when he gave several different flat numbers, some of which did not exist and one where a real victim lived.
Kate Mulholland, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Nguyen’s deceit in the aftermath of such a catastrophic loss of life was breath-taking. He was willing to lie again and again, adapting his story when it was questioned, in order to profit from the huge aid efforts and outpouring of sympathy for true victims.
“CCTV showed that the day after the fire he was at a housing charity nine miles away in Whitechapel appearing happy and light hearted, and his mobile phone was located at his home in Beckenham. The selfishness and manipulation Nguyen showed has horrified those whose job it is to help the true victims of Grenfell Tower.”
Nguyen, who has been in the UK since the 1980s, had 17 aliases, the court heard. He had 28 previous convictions for 56 offences spanning more than 30 years, including theft, dishonest offences, arson and grievous bodily harm.
Four days after the Grenfell Tower blaze he had gone to the Westway sports centre in North Kensington – where volunteers were helping survivors and setting up a refuge – and told people that he lived in the block and that his family had died in the fire.
The family of the victim who lived at one of the tower block addresses given by Nguyen was caused “significant distress” after being questioned by police due to the fraud, the court heard.
He was also convicted of lying to authorities, saying that in the fire he lost his passport, in the name Anh Tuan Nguyen.
Nguyen will be sentenced on 15 December.