CONFIDENCE: The promises of Newcastle fraudster Lemuel Page (right) have ensnared famly members of his de facto wife Renay Bull, shown in her former Darby Street cupcake store. Pictures: Marina Neil and Max Mason-HubersSPECIAL INVESTIGATIONThe big talkerLies that lie beneathGem of a tall talePainful lessonTaken to the cleanersDigging for truthCreditors in Greek tragedyIt’s been an absolute nightmareA mother’s plea to daughterRENAY Bull’s family thought they were on a sure thing when they invested with her de facto husband and property developer Lemuel Page.
It’s what you do with family. You trust them.
But what they didn’t know was that they were having the wool pulled over their eyes by a con man with a history of fleecing everyone from investors to tradesmen and life-long friends.
Speaking to Fairfax Media about the “nightmare” that has “torn our family apart”, Chris and Glenda Bull, Renay’s divorced parents, explain that they would rather not have their private trauma played out in public, but felt Page had left them no choice but to finally speak out.
“The damage that he has done to this family, and so many other people, is so very disappointing,” Mr Bull said. “It’s impossible for us to understand or comprehend why.”
The Bull family said they had “no idea”of the depth of Page’s deceit until news broke in July this year of his criminal conviction for fraud. The jig was up.
The fraud conviction, over a fake diamond ring Page sold to a friend, turned his private dealings into a very public scandal.
Victims are still coming forward detailing decades of deception where many have lost entire nest eggs.Unfortunately for the Bulls, their family wasnot immune to Page’s ways.
Mr and Mrs Bull tell a sad tale of unchecked greed, ill-gotten gains, lies and betrayal. Orchestrated by their son-in-law, Page, a serial offender who wormed his way into the confidence of their family through his 14-year relationship with their eldest daughter, Renay.
PARTNER: Lemuel Page’s long-term partner, Renay Bull, in her now defunct Darby Street cupcake shop in 2014.
The pair live together in a $1.2 million apartment onNewcastle Beach.
The Bulls explain how they trusted Page, they’d celebrated Christmases and birthdays with him. What they were painfully destined to learn was that Page has a knack for talking people into giving him money.
Over several years, trading on family trust, Page persuaded Ms Bull’s sister, brother, father, aunty and uncle and family friends to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in his ventures. Like so many others, they are all fighting to get their money back.
“We welcomed him into our home,” Mrs Bull said. “We treated him like family, he was family. We just never saw anything like this coming. It’s been devastating.”
Page met Ms Bull in 2003, the couple lived in Sydney while she studied podiatry at university and returned to Newcastle around 2009.
Mrs Bull recalls, when it came to spending on her daughter, Page was no slouch. The first present he bought her was a $1000 pair of shoes. Next he traded her “old junky” Nissan for a new BMW Z4.
“She was dazzled in the lights,”Mrs Bull said. “And I think she’s been dazzled in the lights ever since.”
BETRAYED: Renay Bull’s aunty and uncle, Greg and Leanne Slaney, are owed more than $70,000 from dealings with Lemuel Page.
According to the family, Page first talked Ms Bull’s father, Chris, into investing in shares in 2007 and a property deal at New Lambton in 2010. Mr Bull is still $30,000 out of pocket. For years Page promised payment was just around the corner.
“It took a while for me to realise what had happened, because he tells you one story, after another, after another,”Mr Bull said. “But i’m still waiting. It eventually got to the point that whenever I’d ask about the money, he’d abuse the crap out of me.”
Next, Page started working on Ms Bull’s unsuspecting aunty and uncle, Leanne and Greg Slaney. He talked the Slaneys into investing $33,000 in a property deal at Waratah West in 2010 that never eventuated. Mr Slaney, a builder, is also owed tens of thousands of dollars for work he did forPage ondevelopments that he was never paid for.
Cracks were starting to appear, but Page explained them away saying he had a contractual dispute with the Slaneys. Another of Page’s tactics was to threaten the Slaneys that they would “get nothing” if they made “trouble”.
The timing of the next scam had to be precise. Working on different family members at the same time, Page was clinical.
It was 2014, using the lure of a property deal, Page talked Ms Bull’s brother and his friend, who both asked not to be named, into investing $300,000 in a Mayfield purchase. The brother’s $190,000 disappeared,so did his friend’s $110,000.
Using the brother’s desperationto get the $300,000 back, Page suggestedhe become a one-third owner ina Cooks Hill property deal. To raise funds to complete the deal, Page talkedthe brother into taking over a $140,000 loan for a Porsche. Page did not come good on his promise to continue making therepayments for the luxury car or his promises to repay the brother the $190,000 or his friend’s $110,000.
It seemed Page’s kindness knew no bounds. Around the same time he had another property deal on the go and offered Ms Bull’s younger sister, who asked not to be named, a chance to invest her life savings in 21-23 Robertson St, Carrington. She has not seen the $45,000 since.
To add insult to injury, at the same time as she was begging Page to repay the money, the property was sold to a company partially owned by her sister, Renay.
TRUSTED: Lemuel Page at a Bull family gathering.
Fairfax Media revealed last week that Ray and Teresa Henderson, who used to clean Page’s cars and properties, lost $100,000 from an accident payout after investing with Page in the same Carrington property.
By now the Bull family had reached a crisis point.
Mrs Bull struggles to describe her horror at the situation.
“The kids didn’t tell me for a long time what was going on,” she said. “They tried to protect me.”
Asked about communication with Renay, Mrs Bull said she had been “sending her text messages and emails, asking her to walk away and come home”. But she received no response.
“I don’t know if it’s me being a mother, but I’ve still got a gut feeling that there is a reason why she has distanced herself,” she said. “That in time we might understand why.”
Mr Bull says he feels overwhelming “disappointment”.
“I’m just bitterly disappointed,”he said.
“Bitterly disappointed at the whole mess. I just want justice to prevail.”
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