Franchisees' fresh allegations against ex-Green Acres agent

Mr Ellison confirmed the money had been credited to Lapham's account, but at least 11 franchisees did not receive the ironing equipment they had paid for…""We are just as shocked with all the unfoldings of Lapham,"" Mr Ellison said.

The New Zealand Herald
February 9, 2008

Franchisees' fresh allegations against ex-Green Acres agent
Fraud Story
Lincoln Tan

Franchisees of the multimillion-dollar Green Acres ironing business fiasco say they have lost money more than once to the company's former area manager Keith Lapham.

Besides selling them non-existent franchises, the former Green Acres franchise master is alleged to have obtained loans for some without their knowledge and also misled them about interest-free arrangements with at least one finance company.

At least three franchisees have contacted finance company Finance Now concerning the allegations.

One of the victims, Kris Divate, said: "I am very sure neither me nor my wife signed the loan agreement and the first time I saw the signatures were when Finance Now sent me copies of the agreement." He remembered signing an application for a $5000 loan from the company to buy ironing equipment for his business, but was shocked to find the signature and initial on the loan agreement as well.

"I was completely shocked. I am now lumped with a loan I never agreed to and for the purchase of equipment I never got," Mr Divate said.

Another victim, Phoebe Yang, who also never received any of the ironing equipment, said she was facing immense pressure having to repay the $5000 loan at an annual interest rate of 18.95 per cent when Lapham had told her that Green Acres would be paying the interest. Lapham, who was also a dealer and business introducer for Finance Now, had given her a signed note dated November 29, 2007, stating: "Just to confirm the interest portion of the loan with Finance Now will be credited back to you. The loan guaranteed by Keith Lapham at Green Acres Ironing, and Green Acres will be paying for the interest."

Ms Yang said: "Now we are left to suffer the burden of having to repay the debt." About 200 franchisees, mainly Chinese and Indian immigrants, have been allegedly defrauded of between $21,000 and $25,000 each by buying non-existent Green Acres ironing franchises.

Their loans were obtained in two parts - one for the purchase of the franchise business, and the other for about $5000 for the ironing equipment.

Finance Now chief executive Phil Ellison told the Weekend Herald that Lapham had presented applications for loans totalling $150,000 for about 30 franchisees between October and December last year.

Mr Ellison confirmed the money had been credited to Lapham's account, but at least 11 franchisees did not receive the ironing equipment they had paid for.

As guarantor for the loans, Lapham had to assign to Finance Now "all his present and after acquired personal property" as collateral, which was lodged on December 21 last year, a day before he disappeared.

"We are just as shocked with all the unfoldings of Lapham," Mr Ellison s


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