Early in 2012 I spoke of my search for The Scarlet Pimpernel, a client for whom I did a lot of work over the course of around twelve months, and who (still) owes me payment for quite a bit of it.
I couldn't find her then and didn't have the money to hire a private detective until early this year, when I finally got a new address for her. It wasn't what I expected. She is living in a furnished apartment on the north shore waterfront. This cool pad with superb views is a holiday/long let rental advertised for $1400 a week by its managers.
To say I was gobsmacked was an understatement. Actually, I didn't believe what the detective told me. I thought it must be one of her more well-off family members who lived there as the Pimpernel is more or less broke. Broke enough not to pay her suppliers.
Two months later I had phone calls from two people I'd never heard of before but they had one thing in common - TSP owed them money too. They both confirmed the address I'd been given was correct.
I got my solicitor onto the job and we launched a new statement of claim against TSP. This time it included interest on the original sum. I can imagine the Pimpernel hit the roof when it was finally delivered to her. By that point she wasn't opening her door to anyone let alone a process server, and now I know why.
It's not just me and the two others (who have since been paid and in one case accepted a much smaller payment just to stop TSP bullying herself and her staff and harassing them via phone and email). There is another guy taking her to court for several thousand dollars. There is a former employer gagging her as she has been badmouthing his company and causing trouble with his staff and that is in progress in the courts this month too. There was another firm she owed around $15K to but bullied them down to only paying half, citing that she doesn't have a printer at her home so couldn't print out a contract to sign and therefore didn't formally agree to the initial sum; she has threatened them with legal action if they object. Today I spoke to yet another person who is owed money for design services and is about to set a lawyer onto TSP.
So that makes seven with a grievance or who are owed money, and let's add the person who my process server tried to find at TSP's old address a couple of years ago, around, I suspect, the time I was doing work for TSP. I don't know who that is but TSP owed them money too.
TSP is, I think, going into meltdown. She took down her corporate website a few months back and this month her blog is missing and her Facebook corporate page is gone. On Twitter she has described herself as being offline for now. The Scarlet Pimpernel is doing a vanishing act.
Until recently TSP has had a pet lawyer, her boyfriend, but I understand they have broken up and I suspect with summonses and statements of claim flying at TSP from all directions, TSP is probably at her wit's end.
I suspect she may do a bolt and my solicitor is lodging a Default Judgement against her tomorrow; hopefully she is still living in the expensive pad and that will arrive in her letterbox. If she doesn't challenge it within two weeks it goes to court. Once it goes through court it's valid for twelve years.
In a way I feel sorry for her, as her behaviour has followed a consistent pattern for many years - one of the people I've spoken to this year told me he had to chase her with a debt collector ten years ago and again earlier this year for a second transaction. He'd forgotten about her and it wasn't until she didn't pay him this year that he twigged the name was familiar, checked his records and the rest is history.
She clearly has mental illness of some sort and admits openly to it. She never said anything about her mental state to me when I was working for her, but has been blatant about it to people since then, as if that is an excuse for her behaviour. I do hope she doesn't do anything stupid - if I were in so much financial trouble I'd be feeling suicidal, especially if I didn't have a house to sell to cover my debts and legal fees.
But while I feel sorry for her I'm still angry with her; angry for lying to me and telling the same sort of lies to other businesses who she has treated in the same way. I'm not sure whether she deliberately engages freelancers and small businesses knowing she can't and won't pay them or whether she hopes her ship will come in and the money will magically appear from one of her other contracts. If it's the latter the ship is the Titanic.
The story continues...