Con man gets 12 years

Guilty on 13 counts of R1.6m fraud and theft

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - JON HOUZET and LOUISE CARTER

FOR­MER Port Al­fred con artist Ray­mond Clive Laredo, 48, was sen­tenced to 12 years im­pris­on­ment by the Port El­iz­a­beth Commercial Crime Court on Septem­ber 19 for fraud and theft.

Laredo, a for­mer man­ager of Pen­nypinch­ers and builder, was found guilty on June 23 last year of 13 counts of fraud and theft amount­ing to more than R1.6-mil­lion.

Laredo knew of his fate on Tues­day after he was ac­cused of hav­ing em­bez­zled about R1-mil­lion from Pen­nypinch­ers. It is al­leged that be­tween 2006 and 2007, Laredo mis­ap­pro­pri­ated funds through un­law­fully trans­fer­ring about R1-mil­lion into his per­sonal ac­count.

Laredo, who op­er­ated un­der the name Crab­tree In­vest­ments, de­frauded the clients whose homes he was build­ing, as well as Pen­nypinch­ers Port Al­fred, in which he once tried to buy a stake.

In mul­ti­ple al­le­ga­tions, Laredo was com­mis­sioned for build­ing projects, but the work was never done.

Ac­cord­ing to an­nex­ures to the charge sheet, in Fe­bru­ary 2006, Laredo was con­tracted to build a house for Cedric Van­der­schrik in Can­non Rocks. Van­der­schrik paid him a de­posit of R150 000, but later de­manded a re­fund on the ba­sis of breach of con­tract. Laredo was un­able to pay back the amount, but in Septem­ber 2007, he agreed to sup­ply R150000 worth of build­ing ma­te­ri­als free of charge to Van­der­schrik in lieu of the money he owed him.

He al­legedly got Pen­nypinch­ers to de­liver the ma­te­ri­als but did not pay for them, nor did he prop­erly ac­count for them in the Pen­nypinch­ers books.

But “to con­ceal this mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of build­ing ma­te­ri­als” Laredo is al­leged to have “cre­ated a false debt” in Van­der­schrik’s name in Pen­nypinch­ers’ ac­count­ing records and made to look like Van­der­schrik had bought goods to the value of R158 445 on credit. Laredo is al­leged to have re­peated this tac­tic on at least three other oc­ca­sions, when he built a home for Wolf­gang Mohlhein­rich in For­est Downs, for Robert Joiner in Green­man­tle Drive, and when he owed D& A Tim­bers R232080 in terms of a civil judg­ment granted against him. He is al­leged to have used his po­si­tion as a joint ven­ture op­er­a­tor of Pen­nypinch­ers to af­fect the pur­chase and de­liv­ery of ma­te­ri­als in Pen­nypinch­ers’ name. Fur­ther­more, be­tween Oc­to­ber 2007 and Jan­uary 2008, Laredo un­law­fully elec­tron­i­cally trans­ferred money from Pen­nypinch­ers’ ac­count to his own ac­count to the tune of R713606. Laredo was of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to be­come joint ven­ture op­er­a­tor of Pen­nypinch­ers in May 2007 – to­gether with Stein­hoff Doors and Build­ing Ma­te­ri­als which con­trolled Pen­nypinch­ers at the time. He needed to come up with R690000 by June 30 2007. Ac­cord­ing to the charge sheet, he formed the Sun­shine Trust with his wife and John MacKay. Laredo told MacKay that R900 000 was needed for the Sun­shine Trust to be­come en­ti­tled to a half share of the net in­come of Pen­nypinch­ers. He told MacKay R300000 would en­ti­tle him to a 33% share in the busi­ness.

The case has taken al­most a decade to con­clude, with mul­ti­ple post­pone­ments

MacKay paid him the amount, but Laredo paid no money to Stein­hoff who even­tu­ally ter­mi­nated Laredo’s ap­point­ment as joint ven­ture op­er­a­tor.

Laredo conned sev­eral other home own­ers and res­i­dents who in­vested money in du­bi­ous build­ing plans. Some of his vic­tims in­cluded el­derly res­i­dents who suf­fered great fi­nan­cial dev­as­ta­tion when their money dis­ap­peared through their fin­gers and into Laredo’s hands.

The case has taken al­most a decade to con­clude, with mul­ti­ple post­pone­ments and reg­u­lar stalling and dodg­ing tac­tics from Laredo over the years. The mass fraud case was not the first and only time Laredo found him­self on the wrong side of the law.

In De­cem­ber 2007, Laredo con­fessed to be­ing a pae­dophile and pleaded guilty in the Port El­iz­a­beth Mag­is­trate’s Court to one charge of in­de­cent as­sault of a mi­nor and two charges of ex­pos­ing a child to porno­graphic ma­te­rial.

He was con­victed of the as­sault in 2011, for which he re­ceived a sus­pended sen­tence and a fine.

De­scrib­ing Laredo’s de­fence, Mag­is­trate Louis Claassen said: “He contradicted him­self and clearly fab­ri­cated his ver­sion when he [could not] ex­plain his ac­tions.”

The Se­ri­ous Commercial Crime unit of the Hawks be­gan its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter dur­ing Jan­uary 2008 and ar­rested Laredo on Septem­ber 4 2008.

Port Al­fred res­i­dent Daphne Wil­son and her hus­band lost a lot of money with Laredo’s du­bi­ous schemes and said they weren’t sur­prised the case had taken so long. They de­scribed Laredo as a per­son who could worm his way out of any­thing.

The Wil­sons said for years he used sly tac­tics to help stall his case in­clud­ing fak­ing ill­nesses, ap­point­ing and re­hir­ing lawyers and even not show­ing up for court dates.


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