Bexley woman jailed for stealing thousands of pounds from Grenfell fire victims fund
PUBLISHED: 12:04 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 12:04 28 September 2018
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A fraudster who stole tens of thousands of pounds from a Grenfell Tower victim fund and the NHS has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.
Jenny McDonagh, from Abbey Wood, stole the money while working in the finance departments of Kensington and Chelsea Council and the health service.
She went on luxury holidays to Dubai and Los Angeles, dined in expensive restaurants, shopped and went on a gambling spree using £62,000 of money meant for survivors of the fire.
Sentencing her at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday, Judge Robin Johnson told her: “You knew exactly what these funds were for and the importance of them for the residents.
“The scale of your dishonesty in this fraud beggars belief.
“I do not know your current financial position but I very much hope the funds can be recovered from you.”
McDonagh, 39, had previously pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, theft and concealing criminal property.
On Thursday, one of her victims, Edward Daffarn, a survivor of the fire and vice chairman of campaign group Grenfell United, told the court about the impact of the fraud on his community.
He said: “It is like pouring salt on wounds of bereaved residents.”
The judge added: “It must have been particularly abhorrent for Mr Daffarn to find out his name had been used by you in order to achieve your goal.”
McDonagh, who stole the money over a 10-month period, spent £32,000 of it on gambling, racking up around £16,000 in losses.
Trips to Paris and Iceland were bought with pre-paid credit cards, as well as purchases in high street shops.
Prosecuting barrister Benjamin Holt said on Thursday that the money was spent on “frivolous items, for example £48 at Ann Summers”.
McDonagh was hired by the west London council in October 2017 to assist with the distribution of money to survivors of the fire, which was meant to be spent by them on accommodation and other essential items.
She took money using pre-paid credit cards intended for five victims of the fire.
The card in Mr Daffarn’s name was topped up 17 times and more than £50,000 passed through the account.
McDonagh appeared in court dressed in a grey blouse and looked unmoved as the judge read out her sentence.
She was originally arrested on August 1 and used the stolen card again two days later.
The Grenfell Tower fire claimed the lives of 72 people on June 14 last year.
A spokesman for Kensington and Chelsea Council described McDonagh’s actions as “both shocking and unforgivable” after she entered her guilty plea last month.
McDonagh took £35,000 of NHS money between November 2015 and March 2016 by using what prosecutor Ben Holt described as a “bogus company”.
She transferred funds from the Midway NHS Foundation, which is based in Kent, to herself.