Con man gets 12 years
Guilty on 13 counts of R1.6m fraud and theft
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.
RAYMOND CLIVE LAREDO