Lapham agrees to meet Fraud Office

…Mr Lapham had told him in a telephone call that he had met his lawyer and was prepared to tell his side of his story to the SFO. "Keith said he was ready to talk and he will be speaking with his lawyer and the SFO today, before making what he has to say public."

The New Zealand Herald
January 22. 2008

Lapham agrees to meet Fraud Office
Lincoln Tan

Former Green Acres master franchisee Keith Lapham will be questioned by the Serious Fraud Office today, a source told the Herald.

The source said Mr Lapham had told him in a telephone call that he had met his lawyer and was prepared to tell his side of his story to the SFO.

"Keith said he was ready to talk and he will be speaking with his lawyer and the SFO today, before making what he has to say public."

The SFO could not be contacted yesterday to confirm this.

Mr Lapham is alleged to have defrauded 200 investors of up to $5 million through the sale of unauthorised Green Acres ironing franchises.

He had been out of public view since around December 20 but was tracked down to a house in Takapuna last week.

The defrauded franchisees were mainly Chinese and Indian immigrants who paid between $21,000 and $25,000 each for the businesses which would supposedly guarantee them incomes of between $650 to $1100 per week.

Some of them have formed a group called Franchise Watch and are planning a legal assault against Green Acres and Mr Lapham. Spokesman Ketan Trevidi said the group was close to appointing their lawyers, and would meet this weekend to finalise matters.

Other franchisees are being helped by former Lapham employees, such as drivers Ken McCulloch and Jason Joyce, to get their businesses running again.

Mr McCulloch is continuing to collect and deliver ironing for about 11 franchisees on the North Shore while Mr Joyce is trying to get employment for those who no longer had any income.

"I have formed such a bond with some of the operators [franchisees] that I feel I owe it to them to help them get back on their feet.

"It is through no fault of theirs that they are in such a situation," he said.

But last Friday, Green Acres' lawyers issued a warning to Mr McCulloch asking him to stop.

The company did not want to comment on the matter, a spokesperson told the Herald.

Many of the defrauded franchisees have rejected a Green Acres' rescue package offered a fortnight ago to legitimise their franchises because it required them to do their own pickup and delivery and did not guarantee their incomes - which were in the original agreement they signed with Mr Lapham.


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