Final demand

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A Queenstown debt collector faces potential bankruptcy after welshing on most of a $50,000 loan.

Documents were sent on Tuesday to Invercargill’s High Court commencing the bankruptcy process against Michael Erwin of Ascendant Investigations Ltd.

Southern Lakes Investigations (2004) Ltd, co-owned by Kathryn Omond, is pursuing Erwin. She sold the debt collection and document-serving business to him in September 2008.

Omond – a former local court official and now a JP and marriage celebrant – says she was seriously ill at the time and didn’t do due diligence.

Erwin came along after two deals on her business fell over.
“But he couldn’t raise the funds,” Omond says.

“I was completely stupid – I was so ill at the time, I just needed to get the business handed over to someone and he was the only one. He said he would pay it off – it was a drip-feed.”

The deal saw Omond’s company grant Erwin a $50,000 interest-free loan, which Erwin then applied to buying the business.

The loan was to be repaid at $3000 a month over about 18 months.

Omond, describing the experience as “a nightmare”, claims Erwin “was late [with repayments] every time and the amounts were never the full amount”.

After about $17,000 was repaid, Omond says Erwin “stopped payments [altogether] in March 2009”.
“I was in hospital at the time and that was it – nothing,” Omond says.

She then began legal proceedings for the remainder, getting judgement against Erwin and Ascendant last September. Her lawyer, Stephen Brent, says the judgement is for almost $39,000.

Mountain Scene went to Ascendant’s Shotover Street office yesterday morning to find Erwin at his desk.
Saying he preferred not to be interviewed, he nevertheless confirmed that he personally – rather than Ascendant – owed the $39,000.

“I do not dispute the debt, I’ve just been unable to find the money,” Erwin says.

He’s working on a fresh source of finance and hopes funds will come through before his bankruptcy hearing.

Erwin asked for his photo not to be published “because of the business I’m in”.

He later phoned Mountain Scene and claimed “there was misinformation when I bought the business”. “And it’s a cheque-based business. No paper money.”

But Omond says when chasing Erwin for overdue payments, he told her “my car broke down [or] people aren’t paying me [or] I just haven’t got the money”.

If Erwin is bankrupted, he’ll no longer be allowed to run Ascendant Investigations – Companies Office records show him as sole director and co-shareholder. The other 50 per cent shareholder is his partner Tania Labes.

Erwin pops up as director and shareholder of three other companies – Lakes Personnal (sic), Corporate Resolutions and Southern Investigations 2008 – all shown as “struck off” at the Companies Office.

Labes is listed as Erwin’s fellow director and shareholder in all three struck-off firms.

Following Mountain Scene’s approach yesterday morning, Erwin emailed Omond and lawyer Brent offering a further payment.

Brent later told Mountain Scene “a potential payment plan is being thrashed out which may ultimately negate the need to commence bankruptcy proceedings”.

Omond confirms Erwin delivered a $1500 bank cheque to Brent yesterday afternoon.

“But that’s the first payment since March last year so I’m not getting overly excited.”

Omond says a satisfactory payment plan needs to be negotiated “and if he can come up with the money then we’ll withdraw the bankruptcy proceedings”.

“But unless that happens – no, we’ll go ahead.”