Franchise fraudster jailed

An Auckland based businessman has been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison on proven charges of fraud.

Former Green Acres Master Franchisee Keith Lapham pleaded guilty to three charges of obtaining by deception brought against him by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which became involved following complaints from more than 200 disgruntled people who accused him of having defrauded them of hundreds of thousands of dollars and livelihood.
According to the SFO, the total amount involved was $3.84 million but the defendant said he had obtained only $1.5 million.
However, the presiding Judge said the amount involved did not make a material difference to the verdict issued.
At the height of the controversy that raged in January 2008, about 130 persons told Indian Newslink that they had signed contracts with Mr Lapham to undertake ironing business in their respective homes. Each of them paid $21,000 including a one-off franchise fee of $16,000 (valid for ten years), cost of an ironing machine ($4000) and “training fee” of $1000. The franchise was to fetch them weekly income ranging from $650 to $800.
Most of them had alleged that they had not earned a cent since signing the contract with Mr Lapham. Some of them had not even received the ironing machine.

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