In 2006, Greg Wards was backpacking in London when he met Lezlie Manukian in a courtyard at a house party.
The Kiwi expat, who was in his mid-20s at the time, quickly fell head-over-heels in love with the charismatic Californian woman and before long, the pair set up a new life in New Zealand together.
What Greg didn’t know, however, is that their meeting would change his life, and his family’s lives, forever.
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In the early days of their relationship, Lezlie, who was much older than Greg, often told him all about her wild life.
There was her troubled past as a refugee hailing from Armenia. Her years spent running restaurants and bars across America and Hawaii. And the million-dollar trust fund she apparently inherited from her estranged biological parents.
Over time, the details in Lezlie’s stories often changed.
But Greg never questioned it.
After a whirlwind early relationship, Greg and Lezlie opened a café in the small town of Matakana near Auckland, with Greg’s parents signing on to guarantee the $1.5 million loan.
Not long after that, the pair were married in front of 150 guests.