Jail for former Green Acres franchisee

She was told there may be an opportunity to meet Lapham after the sentencing, but then learned he had declined the opportunity. "I just want to tell him, you've hurt so many people and caused so much pain. Some had to leave the country because they had no money. They've lost their jobs, their house, their cars were repossessed.

November 29, 2010

Jail for former Green Acres franchisee


Keith Lapham- Source: ONE News

A Green Acres employee who sold bogus franchises to almost 200 people has been sentenced to a maximum 3 years and 8 months in jail.

Former Green Acres master franchise holder Keith Lapham, 54, had plead guilty to three charges of obtaining by deception after selling non-existent Green Acres ironing franchises and promising the buyers an income of $650 a week.

Many were immigrants with limited English.

The Serious Fraud Office said Lapham obtained $3.5 million by deception between March and December 2007.

Keith Lapham's lawyer Peter Davey told the court his client felt a "strong sense of remorse and regret over what happened during this period of time".

Davey said the $650 per week promised to sub-franchisees was supposed to be an average over a two-year period of time, and that Davey intended that any shortfall would be made up at the end of that period.

"He thought he had two years, effectively, to be able to meet this guaranteed income."

But Davey also admitted that at some point Lapham had "crossed that line" where he no longer believed he could fulfil the promise of those returns.

Crown prosecutor Philip Morgan said Lapham used their investments, rather than any profits earned, to pay off other sub-franchisees in a continual cycle that relied on more and more people paying to join the scheme - a business model that was doomed to fail.

One sub-franchisee sucked in was Anuradha Chandra, who saw an advertisement for Green Acres franchises on television.

She received some training and an ironing system and was told she could expect to be paid on average $1000 a week for doing small amounts of work.

Chandra, who borrowed $21,000, was in court today to see the sentence handed down.

She was told there may be an opportunity to meet Lapham after the sentencing, but then learned he had declined the opportunity.

"I just want to tell him, you've hurt so many people and caused so much pain. Some had to leave the country because they had no money. They've lost their jobs, their house, their cars were repossessed.

"What are we going to do with a $5000 ironing board and steamer? Nothing."

Judge Perkins told Lapham his sentence would have to act as a deterrent to others.

"These are people who have come to the country with high hopes. They are people who are normally high achievers. What you've done is stolen from them the capital they would have used to perform in the community, in financial ways and in other ways that new immigrants do."

He sentenced Lapham to three sentences of 3 years and 8 months imprisonment for each of the charges faced, to be served concurrently.

Perkins said Lapham's actions had awful consequences for the victims and their families.

"Those people have come here as new immigrants to contribute to the community and they've had that ripped from them so instead of hitting the ground running they've been put way behind the eight ball," he said.

"What you have done is stolen from them capital that they would have used to contribute to the community financially and in other ways that new immigrants invariably do. That is why I say your offending was debilitating to the community at large."

Lapham had also deceived Green Acres about his business activities and the company had lost substantial funds and suffered damage to its reputation as a result of his offending, he said.

Green Acres spokesman Logan Sears said the business had been rebuilt after the damage Lapham had inflicted on it.

"This sentence underlines both the seriousness of the charge, and the damaging consequences for all parties who suffered as a result of Lapham's actions.

"It vindicates the stance we took from the outset and the efforts we made to lay a complaint, gather and safeguard evidence and support the Serious Fraud Office."

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