HE is infamous for deceit and duplicity, but managed to avoid jail time after a Sydney District Court judge this week found him to be of “good character”.
Now the Newcastle Herald can reveal the evidence that helped con man Lemuel Page keep his freedom.
Nine character references supplied to Judge Julia Baly, SC, were instrumental in helping her form the opinion that Page was of “good character” and selling a fake diamond ring to a close friend was “out of character”.
Page’s long-term partner, Newcastle podiatrist Renay Bull, provided a glowing four-page account of his attributes. “He is a very honest hard working individual,” Ms Bull wrote. “He always goes out of his way to help people and offer assistance ... Unfortunately people have over the years taken advantage of this trait and his generosity, and this at times, has worked to his detriment.”
The Herald has previously reported that Page persuaded Ms Bull’s sister, brother, father, aunty and uncle and family friends to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in his ventures. They claim they were mislead and are still fighting to get their money back.
Prominent Newcastle real estate agent, Andrew Walker of Street Property Group, said Page was a friend of 14 years who exhibited a “genuine and forthright” approach to property dealings. “He is particularly loyal to those who are close to him and is always prepared to support his friends occasionally to his own detriment.”
Theo Baker, a dot.com entrepreneur who was on the BRW Rich 200 list in 2001 with an estimated wealth of $130 million before being released from bankruptcy last year, provided an account of Page’s professionalism.
“During the 20 years that I have known and had business dealings with Lemuel Page, I have found him to be honest and reliable and have never had any reason to question his integrity or motives … Mr Page and I continue to work together.”
Page, 48, is accused of leaving investors short-changed with dozens of people publicly claiming he has ripped them off. In a scathing civil court judgement handed down in 2010, Judge Margaret Sidis found Page “falsified documents”, “fabricated” evidence, lied about being involved in developments and took money for shares he never bought.
“Mr Page's capacity for deceit was evident from the proffering of falisified documents to support his defence,” Judge Sidis said.
She found Page took money from his childhood friend Steve Josifovski claiming it would be spent on developments in Forster, South Sydney and Cardiff. But Page had no interest in the developments and could not account for the missing money.
Judge Sidis ruled in Mr Josifovski's favour and ordered Page pay him almost $250,000, plus more than $130,000 in legal costs. Mr Josifovski is still fighting to get the money.
Since the 1990s, working from Newcastle or Sydney, Page has promoted himself as a financial wheeler-dealer. Many of the scammed investors are no ordinary mums and dads, Page’s stings have dragged in doctors, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, developers and business owners.
With debts of more than $17 million, the self-proclaimed “successful shares trader” signed a $180,000 personal insolvency agreement in November, 2016 – that many creditors argued against – that saved him from bankruptcy.
Page claimed he only had $200 in the bank and couldn't repay the millions he owed to former friends and associates.
An unsecured creditors list from 2015 showed Page owed $5.8 million to Sydney cosmetic dentist Dr Angelo Lazaris, $2.8 million to Sydney GP Donald Munro, $90,000 to his long-term accountant Phillip Joannou and $400 to Bartier Perry lawyer Chris Tsovolos.
Mr Joannou provided a reference to the district court proceedings on Wednesday and said Page was a “close and respected” friend of 24 years who goes “out of his way to assist any individual in need”.
“I genuinely believe that this offence is contrary to the view of Lemuel I have formed over the past 24 years,” he said.
“In my dealings with Lemuel both professionally and socially, I have found him to be polite and respectful as well as a hard worker.”
Toni Steele and Louise Shirvington, of Apple Property Management, described Page respectively as “very ethical” and “gracious and considerate”.
Newcastle chiropractor Jeremy Villani said Page was a friend and business partner of five years.
“I believe that Lemuel is a caring and compassionate individual capable of generous acts of kindness toward people who had nothing to give back, and that this offence is at odds with the Lemuel I know,” Mr Villani wrote.
Dr Munro, who has been Page’s doctor for 28 years and involved in numerous property developments with him, also supplied a reference.
The crown unsuccessfully opposed the use of the references during the appeal on Wednesday and then asked that they be verified as legitimate.
Judge Baly ruled the sentence imposed on Page in the local court for selling his friend the fake diamond ring for $85,000 was “overly harsh” given Page’s “good character” and lack of criminal record.
The decision was too much for a dozen or so of Page’s victims, who at one point let out a collective groan in the public gallery.
The group, who included members of Ms Bull’s family, were left shocked and “devastated” when Page’s appeal was upheld and he was re-sentenced to a 12-month suspended jail term.