A Kapiti mortgage broker is being investigated by police after complaints that she persuaded clients to lend her nearly $2 million that has not been repaid.
Some of Kerry Buddle's former clients have been forced to sell their homes and others have been left struggling to make ends meet.
Ms Buddle owned Get Smart Mortgages and Insurances and had operated under a broker agreement with Kiwi Mortgage Market. She closed her office in December after coming under investigation by lenders and the insurance company she used.
Former client Cassie Ford, who runs Marquis Cattery in Paraparaumu, said she went to Ms Buddle in November 2009 to organise a loan but decided not to proceed with it.
The following May, Ms Buddle came to her house, trying to befriend her and "begging" to borrow $28,000, then returned a few days later asking for more money to pay a tax bill, Ms Ford said. "She said she was desperate, had nowhere else to go."
Ms Ford agreed to provide $41,000 by remortgaging her house.
On a third visit, Ms Buddle pleaded for another $12,000, Ms Ford said, this time from her personal account. "I told her I had tax to pay, but I felt pressured to do it. She told me to keep it secret. I kept my word. I was an idiot."
She later went into mortgage arrears and was warned her home would be put up for a mortgagee sale. Ms Ford went to her lawyer, who got in contact with the police. She got another loan to clear the debt but is struggling financially. "My cats will not suffer, they will not go without, but there are times when I struggle to pay for milk or food for dinner. We have lost faith in people, hardly trust anyone now."
Jenny Twist claims that Ms Buddle owes her about $35,000 after she persuaded her to take out a mortgage in return for a loan that Ms Buddle said she wanted to use to help a couple coming out from Britain to buy a house.
"It sounded fantastic," Mrs Twist said. "We were offered $1500 on drawdown and $100 a month afterwards in thanks. We were told it would be paid back in six months or less."
She said, despite Ms Buddle agreeing to pay the mortgage, the payments went into arrears. Like Ms Ford, she and her husband, Byron, had to get another loan to save their house from a mortgagee sale, and went to the police.
Ian Patterson, 65, of Paekakariki, took out a $77,000 mortgage on his house at Ms Buddle's request. Threatened with a mortgagee sale, he managed to keep the house only because relatives bought it for him.
Living on superannuation, he has now been forced to do a paper run to survive.
"It is completely gut-wrenching. I didn't know where I was going to live. I have fences to fix but no money to fix them."
Several of the clients' lawyers had found large amounts of money deposited in Ms Buddle's husband's account.
A group of brokers on Kapiti Coast have collated evidence after receiving complaints that Ms Buddle owes about $1.8 million to at least a dozen clients and four had been forced to sell their homes. They believe it is probably only the tip of the iceberg.
Detective Sergeant Ian Martin, of Kapiti, confirmed police had opened an investigation after receiving complaints.
Ms Buddle sent an email to Mrs Twist this week, saying she had not made contact in the past because "without the ability to repay I thought it would only infuriate people".
"I am involved in a new business ... I want to be in a position to repay my debts. My son is not with me, he is with my parents as I work fulltime.
"I have put my Mum and Dad in a dire financial position ... I cannot afford childcare. My parents are ashamed of me and want all their money back, knowing they are not the only ones."
The Dominion Post could not contact Ms Buddle yesterday but her father, Ray Buddle, said: "I am not shifting blame, but it takes two to tango. If you want to keep your money in your pocket, you have to keep your brains about it.
"Some people have made some awful mugs of themselves. Kerry is working her backside off to pay it back."
Kiwi Mortgage Market spokesman Brian Greer said the company was no longer associated with Ms Buddle.
"We removed her from the Kiwi Mortgage Market brand on May 31, 2010. It appears she continued to trade outside our brand name for a time but was completely shut down on September 30, 2010.
"The business was not a franchise. Kerry was acting totally outside the terms of our broker agreement.
"We sympathise deeply with anybody who has suffered financial loss at the hands of Kerry but our business is as much a victim in this situation, with substantial damage and financial loss caused to us as well."
- The Dominion Post
Is high tea at a funeral parlour your cup of tea?Related story: High tea... in a funeral parlour