Port Alfred builder guilty of fraud, theft

Case involving over R1-million ending after nearly a decade

A case that has spanned nearly a decade is close to being wrapped up, with former Port Alfred builder Raymond Laredo found guilty on Friday of fraud and theft amounting to more than R1-million.

Laredo, 47, appeared in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court.

Magistrate Louis Claassen found Laredo guilty on eight charges of fraud and theft involving R1 104 531.

However, Laredo was cleared on four other charges due to insufficient evidence.

The verdict handed down by Claassen comes nine years after the case was opened against Laredo, who was also convicted of indecent assault and showing pornography to a minor.

He received a suspended sentence and a fine in 2011 for the latter charges.

Laredo, who now resides in Gauteng, operated under the name Crabtree Investments and stole almost R300 000 from clients between September 2007 and January 2008.

He was commissioned for building projects, but the work was never done.

In addition, while working as a joint venture operator for Pennypinchers, he created false debts in the name of customers by providing them with building material.

During the trial that has moved at a snail’s pace, with 50 remands, the state called 32 witnesses.

Among the witnesses was Robert Joyner, who testified that in 2006 he had bought a plot in Port Alfred.

He and his wife employed Laredo to build a house for them.

The couple entered into an agreement with Laredo’s company, Crabtree Investments, to build the house and the bill for the building was R677 741.

In addition, the couple paid an extra R19 000 for earth-moving equipment and water tanks to be installed at the house. The court heard that despite several payments having been made, Laredo failed to complete the house.

Claassen said none of the witnesses testified with any bias toward Laredo.

“All the state witnesses testified in a chronological fashion [and] the court finds nothing impossible or improbable in the testimony of the witnesses. The witnesses also corroborated each other where expected,” Claassen said.

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

The matter was postponed to July 19 for Laredo to call expert witnesses in mitigation of sentencing.

He was released on R1 000 bail.

By Hendrick Mphande – HeraldLIVE