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Fraud-hit businessman back on his feet

Massimo's - former Pan Din thai restaurant in  South Cresent, Seaham.

Massimo's - former Pan Din thai restaurant in South Cresent, Seaham.

A BUSINESSMAN has spoken of the roller coaster of emotions he faced after the demise of his restaurant and the rise of a new ventures from its ashes.

The popular Pan Din Thai in Seaham was forced to close on New Year’s Eve 2011 after it fell victim to a fraud.

The case is linked to an investigation into another con, where a man claimed he was interested in buying Seaham Hall and Serenity Spa in a multimillion-pound deal when it was put up for sale after its previous owners went into administration.

The South Crescent Thai restaurant closed after owner, Norman Robinson, leased it out to a man, who it is alleged, racked up a host of bills before disappearing.

He left debt of £44,000, forcing Norman to close the business.

Eight members of staff lost their jobs as a result.

However, Norman managed to find seven of them new employment through his contacts.

He has since let out the two upper floors of the South Crescent building to Massimo’s, an Italian restaurant which also offers four hotel rooms, and plans to launch a bistro and delicatessen on the ground floor this year.

The two units at the back of the landmark seafront building, which had been rented to East Durham Artists’ Network (Edan) and used as a gallery, are now let out to a jeweller and a tattoo artist.

The site began life as a pub and is one of the oldest buildings in the town.

Norman, 54, speaking about his situation this time last year said: “It was very bleak, it was a tragedy at the time.

“If you asked me what I was most happy about, it would be that the building was saved and it’s fully occupied. But people are very sorry the Thai restaurant has gone.

“I get asked lots and lots and got support from people asking when will it return, but I just don’t want to do it again.”

Despite the messages of support, Norman said the downfall of his business continues to effect him.

“It’s something that isn’t going to go away for a long time. It was devastating.”

The fraud is also said to have left a car hire firm, surveyors and solicitor out of pocket.

A 29-year-old man from the Humberside area has been questioned in relation to the investigation into the alleged fraud, and the inquiry by Seaham detectives continuing.

Edan decided to find a more flexible base and is working with Durham County Council to take on the disused toilet block in Church Street.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham

 

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