Man claimed more than £80,000 after claiming he lived in Grenfell tower, a court heard

A man who says he lost relatives in the Grenfell blaze appeared in court accused of defrauding more than £83,000 by saying he lived there.

Sharife Elwhabe stole 72,586.60 in hotel accommodation and cash, the prosecution claim.

The 37-year-old also claimed around a further £10,000 in payments from pre-paid cards intended for victims of the fire, which claimed 72 lives in June last year.

Elwhabe said he was living with his aunt and uncle, who died in the blaze, the court heard.

Elwhabe was charged in the early hours of today (Mon) with one count of fraud by false representation between June 13 last year and June 8 this year.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court this morning he appeared in the dock wearing a light blue jumper with white writing on the front.

As he entered his not guilty pleas, he added: “I didn’t defraud anyone, I lived at 182 – not guilty.”

Throughout the hearing Elwhabe held his head in his hands, regularly rubbing his face and running his hands through his hair.

Charles Shelton prosecuting said: “We say there are large sums involved.

“A family of five lives at 182 and they all sadly perished in the flat.

“He presented himself as a resident of the flat. It’s a matter of great sensitivity.

“There’s CCTV, witnesses and family and investigations were made into the status of the defendant.

“Some people were given pre-paid cards to offset their hotel expenses.

“A sum of £72,586.60 was used for hotel accommodation and £10,730 was on cards in various cash withdrawals.

“In total the crown suggest the fraud would be in the region of £80,000.

“There maybe substantial public interest given the nature and gravity of the alleged offences.”

Richard Jeffries defending said Elwhabe was a family member of those who died in the flat and was staying with them at the time.

He added: “He is a family member, the issue is just how close he was to them.

“It’s emotional in both senses as he lost family members. It’s not some distant relative, it’s somebody who he is staying with – his aunt and uncle.

“My client wishes to clear his name. This would be a significant stain against his character.

“Many of his associates in the area of the tower were very concerned about where he was at the time and wanted to make sure he had not been caught up in what was going on.”

District Judge Dervinder Kaur Sandhu remanded Elwhabe in custody.

She said: “This case is going to crown court.”

Elwhabe, who have his address as a hotel in Chelsea, west London, will next appear in court at Isleworth Crown Court on July 23.

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