Businesses lose faith in ‘pastor’
A self-declared pastor who admits owing lots of businesses money says he will pay them back because he wants to go to heaven.
Derek Renata-Grace, who shared a picture of himself and Prime Minister Bill English on a religious fellowship website, said he could go to prison, or choose bankruptcy, but would rather resurrect business and reimburse people.
He has triggered complaints across the North Island about meat pack sales and advertising pitches after his advert and loyalty card business Ucountcard failed to deliver.
‘‘I owe a lot of businesses money, because it just didn’t take off.’’
Former Ucountcard customer Kate Chew, of Sushi Monster in the Hutt Valley, said the man – also known as Derek William Grace – visited her shop to gauge interest in his marketing plan. ‘‘He told us he had 1000 members.’’
She said the card failed, so she went to the Disputes Tribunal, which ordered Grace’s company to pay Sushi Monster $387.55 by December 16. Ucountcard changed its name to RB2GONZ Limited, or Rubbish 2 Go, last year. This week, Chew said she was still waiting for payment.
Jason Toi, at The Big Chill in Lower Hutt, said Ucountcard was paid $450 for services that never materialised. Grace said the amount was $370. ‘‘We tried to get hold of him to do something ... He never responded,’’ Toi said. ‘‘Now apparently he’s some kind of pastor.’’
A Dudley St beauty salon worker said many local firms were affected.
Shane Cotter, of Porirua, said Grace arrived on his doorstep in February. Cotter said Grace told his partner he was giving clothes away.
‘‘She [understood] it was from Presbyterian Support.’’ Cotter believed the real aim was to direct people to a website and approve automatic payment forms linked to a home direct sales business.
In Hamilton, Michelle Stewart said her partner Richard agreed a few years ago to buy meat packs off Grace, paying $10 a week. ‘‘He didn’t even get a pork chop. So he wasn’t very happy.’’
A ‘‘group’’ of people had visited homes in Te Rapa to promote meat pack deals, Stewart said.
Grace was described as a ‘‘Hebrew Fellowship Pastor’’ on a website which offered religious studies. Wellington Jewish Community Centre had never heard of Grace. The Presbyterian Church said door-to-door collections were not its style.
Grace earlier said he’d addressed claims about the church and someone at the Presbyterians told him not to worry. He added: ‘‘Anyone can say that they’re Hebrew. By genealogy, the Polynesian people are Hebrew.’’
He said one complainant from Porirua was ‘‘from a mental institution’’.
He said other people’s advertising firms could fail too. ‘‘We were selling the card for $10 doorto-door. I think if I stuck with it another year, it might’ve worked.’’
His goal was to build up new business to reimburse people but said ‘‘it’s going to take me a while’’.
Derek Renata-Grace with Prime Minister Bill English, whose spokesman said he could not remember this photo and did not endorse the pastor.