Trial for worker accused of $4m franchise fraud

Keith Lapham was committed to stand trial on the charges yesterday at a depositions hearing at the Auckland District Court. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of obtaining funds by deception. Almost 200 people, many of them Chinese immigrants, are alleged to have paid Lapham for non-existent ironing franchises.

The New Zealand Herald
April 13, 2010

Trial for worker accused of $4m franchise fraud
Andrew Koubaridis

KeithLapham.jpg

Keith Lapham. Photo / Supplied

A former Green Acres contractor accused of a franchise scam worth almost $4 million will stand trial on three fraud charges.

Keith Lapham was committed to stand trial on the charges yesterday at a depositions hearing at the Auckland District Court. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of obtaining funds by deception.

Almost 200 people, many of them Chinese immigrants, are alleged to have paid Lapham for non-existent ironing franchises.

The Serious Fraud Office accuses the former contractor of obtaining more than $3.5 million by deception when he granted ironing sub-franchises in 2007.

The charge relates to false representations Lapham allegedly made guaranteeing buyers income of $650 a week that he couldn't pay.

Another charge relates to people who gave him money to start their own franchise operations. The amount allegedly obtained was $96,000.

The third and final charge is one of obtaining $244,800 and relates to alleged misrepresentations he made to Green Acres about how many sub-franchises he had granted.

The offences are alleged to have occurred between March and December 2007.

The court was told the case would have 44 witness statements.

Lapham was remanded on bail to a callover in July. His bail conditions were suppressed.

Lapham, who comes from Fiji, started as an ironing franchisee and then bought the master franchise licence for Auckland. Shortly before the fraud allegations were made he was recognised as one of Green Acres' most successful operators.

Green Acres first became aware there were problems when a group of unauthorised franchisees contacted them with their concerns.

By Andrew Koubaridis | Email Andrew

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10638021


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