$5m ironing franchise fraudster found hiding out on North Shore

Although Mr Lapham, who now sports a beard, is alleged to have sold fraudulent franchises topping $5 million, a former employee says he was no criminal mastermind. Instead, it was more likely he had been dragged under by a faltering business.

The New Zealand Herald
January 17, 2007

$5m ironing franchise fraudster found hiding out on North Shore
Lincoln Tan

Disgraced former Green Acres franchise master Keith Lapham has been found hiding in a North Shore house since his disappearance just before Christmas.

Mr Lapham, who had allegedly sold fraudulent ironing franchises to 200 investors refused to comment when confronted by a One News reporter.

The person whom Mr Lapham said is his lawyer, Robert Hucker, also refused to confirm that he was acting for him when asked by the Herald yesterday.

Although Mr Lapham, who now sports a beard, is alleged to have sold fraudulent franchises topping $5 million, a former employee says he was no criminal mastermind.

Instead, it was more likely he had been dragged under by a faltering business.

The man - who didn't want to be named - said Mr Lapham had been in a situation where he was running out of money since June last year, and by the time of his disappearance around December 20, was "robbing Peter to pay Paul".

Operators were demanding between $650 and $1100 weekly - amounts which were contractually agreed as guaranteed income - but many were still not up to speed with ironing even after the training, and there was not enough new business to keep them all going, the former employee said.

That was when Mr Lapham focused on selling new franchises, rather than concentrating on saving the old businesses.

"Keith is a good salesman but not a very good businessman and I think that is where the problem is.

"He could sell new franchises but struggled to keep his own business going."

Those who bought the franchises were mainly Chinese and Indian immigrants unfamiliar with English and New Zealand roads attracted by the fact that this business did not require them to deal with the outside world but offered a guaranteed income.

Mr Lapham had operated his franchise business out of his home on Ennismore Rd in Mt Albert.


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