Tree Children owner Sara Raider went bankrupt owing $600,000

Tree Children's Sara Raider declared bankruptcy owing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Tree Children's Sara Raider declared bankruptcy owing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  The strange saga of Nelson's quirkiest trinket shop has taken yet another twist, with the revelation that its owner ran up debts of more than half a million dollars during Tree Children's brief period of trading.

Sara Raider went bankrupt owing more than $613,000 to an array of creditors, financial backers and artisans, most of whom  stand little chance of ever seeing their money.

Raider was the sole director and shareholder of the quirky Nelson store before both were transferred to another person who was later convicted for unrelated dishonesty offences. She has since returned to the United States.

Items to be sold at Wills Auctions from the former Tree Children store.
MARION VAN DIJK

Items to be sold at Wills Auctions from the former Tree Children store.

Insolvency documents from the Official Assignee reveal that Raider declared bankruptcy last year. The reason given is: "Failure to keep proper books of account and costing records."

Tree Children was in business for less than a year before it shut up shop last June.

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Lenny Wills with items to be sold at Wills Auctions from the former Tree Children store.
MARION VAN DIJK

Lenny Wills with items to be sold at Wills Auctions from the former Tree Children store.

Much of its stock is now up for auction on Saturday.

Last week it was revealed that Raider turned over ownership and shareholding of her company to Henry McComish who had promised to help out with the store's finances. But Raider said she never saw the money he had promised which she was counting on to help save her business.

Last September McComish was convicted in Invercargill District Court for theft from a person in a special relationship and five charges of obtaining by deception. He was sentenced to a total of 12 months imprisonment and ordered to pay reparations of $14,500.

The secured creditors related to Raider's insolvency include finance companies and individuals who were owed about $300,000.

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However, there are also many small scale artisans that are angry that their goods were bought outright but were never paid for by Raider or the Tree Children company.

"I was just starting up this little jewellery business and they took all my stock for which I was never paid," said Julie Higgins who was owed more than $1000. "It put me out of business."

The solo mother of four said that was all the money she had spare to invest in her fledgling company. Since then she has not been able to get it back off the ground. Higgins has also tried to get her stock back but to no avail. She said Raider kept making excuses for why they couldn't pay her. Then, one day, Higgins saw the shop had been closed.

She does not believe that her unique silver items are in the stock up for auction at Wills Auctions.

"I am sure there are many other suppliers' stuff missing also."

Another Golden Bay jeweller lost almost $10,000 in the store which just about put her out of business.

"Initially, [Raider] said 'I'll give you the money now' but she didn't have the turnover to allow that," said Bing Brabant, whose wife Gaya sold several pieces to Raider. "Then I think if any money she did make off our pieces went to other people."

He said their pieces were apparently stolen during a break in of the store which occurred earlier last year. Raider had told the pair that insurance would cover their losses but they never received anything.

"She kept fobbing us off. We were a bit saddened.  It really almost collapsed the business."

Bruce Dyer of the Nelson Enterprise Loan Trust, which helps out fledgling businesses, said the trust loaned Raider $30,000 which was guaranteed by a friend of Raider's.

He said the trust loaned more money than its usual $20,000 cap because Raider's father was giving thousands of dollars to his daughter every month. 

"Just knowing that money had been coming in we could anticipate it keeping coming in."

Dyer said Raider had been "naive" in her business dealings and her run in with McComish was a way of passing off the business' failure onto him. Dyer said he also wrote to Raider's father, a Conneticut-based doctor of geriatrics, to suggest he help pay off some of the unsecured creditors that the bankruptcy had left.

"That remains an open invitation," Dyer said.

Raider could not be reached for comment.

 

 - Stuff

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