Accused ironing scammer spotted

"We've interviewed a very large number of people, and I can tell you that Mr Lapham's assisting us with our inquiries, but the investigation's got a long way to go," says Grant Liddell, SFO director…Meanwhile, the SFO is keeping an open mind about the investigation. Lapham is not the only focus and there may be other people involved who may be charged eventually.

http://tvnz.co.nz/
January 16, 2008

Accused ironing scammer spotted

The Green Acres ironing franchise scam has taken another turn after ONE News tracked down the elusive Keith Lapham - the man alleged to be behind the multi-million dollar bogus business.

Lapham is accused of selling fake Green Acres ironing franchises and creating a multi-million dollar trail of broken dreams, leaving 200 investors out of pocket in the process.

Since featuring in a ONE News story two days before Christmas, Lapham has not been keen to face the music.

It was believed he had fled the country but ONE News tracked him down to his hideaway, a house in Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore.

That has given his alleged victims fresh hope.

"It's a very good breakthrough for us. We are very happy and we are clearly thankful to the media for that. Finally we have got somebody who has got all the answers," says Ketan Trivedi of the Franchise Watch group.

Lapham operated a Green Acres master franchise but disappeared from his Mt Albert home before Christmas when franchisees complained that they weren't being paid.

"Keith Lapham and a team of trusted employees have breached the Green Acres system on a massive scale," said Andrew Chisholm, Green Acres chief executive last week.

ONE News observed Lapham for several days but he rarely left his flat, except to feed birds on one occasion and also to get a document from his van.

When a reporter finally had the chance to confront Lapham, he quickly retreated into his flat and refused to discuss the serious allegations made against him by Green Acres.

He referred the reporter to his lawyer, Robert Hucker, who also refused to discuss his client's affairs.

The only one who is talking is Paul Green, the partner of one of Lapham's employees. ONE News spoke to him as he was leaving Lapham's address.

"I think he's done some foolish things, but he's not a criminal," says Green.

He says Lapham didn't steal the millions he is accused of.

"He has nothing, he hasn't stolen the money," says Green.

"You'll have to talk to them about it. I can't tell you these things because it's hearsay," says Green when asked what happened to all the money.

While Lapham hides away the investigation into the bogus franchises is continuing.

The Serious Fraud Office is wading through a room containing thousands of Green Acres documents.

"We've interviewed a very large number of people, and I can tell you that Mr Lapham's assisting us with our inquiries, but the investigation's got a long way to go," says Grant Liddell, SFO director.

Lapham was clean-shaven when he disappeared but now sports a beard.

He has also had numerous visitors, including one who arrived in a Green Acres van owned by Lapham.

Meanwhile, the SFO is keeping an open mind about the investigation. Lapham is not the only focus and there may be other people involved who may be charged eventually.

Source: ONE News


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