Police to check $3m fraud claim

…Green Acres says at least 150 bogus ironing businesses have been sold by a master licensee for about $3 million. But more than 100 victims, mostly migrants, called to a meeting at the company's Parnell headquarters on Saturday morning, put the number at closer to 200…

The New Zealand Herald
December 24, 2007

Police to check $3m fraud claim

Six people who claim to have been victims of a multimillion-dollar scam involving the Green Acres franchise company will meet the Serious Fraud Office today.

Home maintenance company Green Acres says at least 150 bogus ironing businesses have been sold by a master licensee for about $3 million.

But more than 100 victims, mostly migrants, called to a meeting at the company's Parnell headquarters on Saturday morning, put the number at closer to 200, the Herald on Sunday reported.

People bought what they believed to be a genuine business from Keith Lapham, who was licensed to sell area-based franchises in Auckland.

But the franchises were allegedly fake, unauthorised by Green Acres and arranged with false documentation.

Mr Lapham, who comes from Fiji, started as an ironing franchisee. He bought the master franchise licence for Auckland several years ago and was recently recognised as one of Green Acres' most successful operators.

Green Acres said it appeared Mr Lapham had been selling fake franchises for up to a year, with sales increasing in the past six weeks.

Green Acres chief executive Andrew Chisholm said management first became aware of the problem when 20 unauthorised franchisees contacted them last weekend.

Mr Chisholm said he was working to try to sort out the problem.

"It's come as a great shock to us. Naturally we're concerned at the plight of these people, and we need to gather as much information from them as we can so we can assess our next move."

Mr Chisholm said he approached the police on Thursday, but they showed little interest. After contacting the Serious Fraud Office, the matter was referred back to the police, National Radio reported.

Mr Chisholm said the company needed to know how many people were involved.

- NZPA


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