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US businessman ‘defrauded Australians’

A California businessman locked up in a Los Angeles jail accused of $US70 million ($A77.

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8 million) fraud also wreaked financial havoc in Queensland while on the run from US authorities, a lawyer representing his alleged Australian victims said.

Eminiano “Jun” Reodica, 69, was considered an American success story in the 1980s when he went from working as a busboy in LA restaurants to owning one of the largest car dealerships in the US.

But when investigators began probing the business as it was collapsing in 1988, the Filipino-born Reodica vanished before reappearing in Queensland in the early 1990s under the name Roberto Coscolluela.

Coscolluela operated Richard Gardner Tax Agency and RC Insurance Pty Ltd in Brisbane.

Carl Desacola, a lawyer from Caloundra-based firm TayLAW Solicitors, is representing 26 people in Queensland who accuse Coscolluela of duping them out of as much as $A7 million.

The lawyer estimates there could be up to 500 Australian families affected by the Filipino-born businessman.

In one case, Coscolluela convinced a widow to invest a $A250,000 superannuation and insurance payment she received after her husband died with the promise of a 10 to 15 per cent return.

When she tried to collect her money, she discovered Coscolluela did not invest it where he said he would and refused to give it back, Mr Desacola said.

Despite alleged victims’ complaints, Australian authorities have not charged Coscolluela.

Queensland Police, ASIC and the Tax Practitioners Board all declined to comment.

“The only avenue we had left unfortunately was the civil process,” Mr Desacola said.

In November 2012, on the eve of the widow’s case being heard in the Brisbane Supreme Court, Coscolluela and his wife Letti tried to fly to Canada. When the plane stopped in Los Angeles a fingerprint check at Los Angeles International Airport revealed he was the fugitive Reodica.

US prosecutors have filed a 51-count indictment against him alleging bank fraud and false statements on loan applications dating back to the 1980s.

He allegedly defrauded his Grand Wilshire Group’s lenders, which had extended $US300 million ($A333.3 million) in credit lines, of about $US70 million ($A77.8 million).

His trial is set for August 19 in Los Angeles and he faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

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Qld teen aiming to KO Gallen

Toowoomba heavyweight Herman Ene-Purcell doesn’t just want to beat Paul Gallen in the NSW State of Origin captain’s professional boxing debut, he wants to knock him out.

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Ene-Purcell will have the entire state of Queensland behind him next Wednesday at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion when the pair face-off on the undercard of the fight between Daniel Geale and Garth Wood.

The NSW skipper is a figure much loathed north of the Tweed, particularly after his brawl with Maroons star Nate Myles in last year’s Origin series.

Ene-Purcell, 19, goes into the fight with a 1-1 professional record with his sole victory coming by knockout and his reputation being that of a hard-hitter who specialises in one-punch fight-stoppers.

The teenager says he’s only too aware of how much Queenslanders want him to emerge victorious in next week’s bout.

“People at the pub find out I’m fighting Paul Gallen and they all say “I hope you knock him on his a***”,” Ene-Purcell said.

“I’ll try my best to do it for Queensland, for myself and for my family.

“I’m not just going there to hurt him. I’m going there to win.”

Ene-Purcell says Gallen’s workhorse reputation and his performances in two previous charity fights show he’s an opponent not to underestimate.

But he feels he’s got the edge considering Gallen will be fighting in a ring for the first time without headgear and with smaller gloves.

“Without a doubt he’s going to be fit,” Ene-Purcell said.

“In saying that, it’s going to be different. No headgear. Smaller gloves. Hopefully I’ll stun him in the first round.”

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Vic sex predator gave ice to schoolgirls

A convicted pedophile turned his suburban Melbourne garage into a drop-in for schoolgirls by offering them the drug ice before performing sex acts on them.

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The man was living in the garage behind his former home after being kicked out by his wife, when he began befriending the schoolmates of his 15-year-old son.

Depressed from the break-up and the loss of his job, he had been smoking ice daily, the Victorian County Court heard.

Soon he was offering the drug to the schoolgirls who came around to visit his son.

The 49-year-old would smoke ice with the girls and supply the drug to them free of charge.

He sexually assaulted three girls in his Bundoora garage while plying them with ice and marijuana.

The girls, aged between 14 and 16, were typically troubled youths.

On one occasion he drove one of the girls to nearby Mount Cooper, where he began fondling her in the back seat of his car.

When she told him to stop, he smoked ice with her, then continued to perform sex acts on her while she was drug-affected.

Two of the girls suffered ongoing drug addiction following his arrest in 2013, according to a prosecution summary read to court.

The father of three invited four other schoolgirls into his garage, one of whom he also supplied with free drugs.

As a convicted child sex offender, from a 2004 indecent assault charge, the man was not permitted to have contact with children without reporting it to the authorities.

He did not report any of his contact with the schoolgirls, the court heard.

The man pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16, three counts of indecent act with a child, four counts of supplying drugs to a child and failing to comply with reporting obligations.

A jury in January also found him guilty of nine counts of sexual penetration of a child and three counts of an indecent act with a child, in offences dating back to 2000.

Defence barrister Kristie Churchill said her client was mired in drug use and suffering from poor self-esteem and depression when he offended.

“Contact with the young people flattered him – he was treated as somebody with something of value,” she said.

Prosecutors called for a lengthy jail term, saying he had shown no remorse for his crimes.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victims, will be sentenced later in February.

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Vic boy’s ‘beautiful bond’ with his mum

The 11-year-old boy who died at his father’s hands on a Victorian cricket ground had a beautiful relationship with his mother, a friend says.

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Gill Metzen, the director of the Tyabb Childcare Centre, knew Luke when he attended the centre for about three years.

She said Luke was a treasured only child who shared a beautiful bond with his mother, Rosie Batty.

“He was just a bundle of joy – a nice little kid,” she told AAP.

“She was a beautiful person. A very caring mum.

“When he was here with her it was a beautiful relationship, a good mum and son relationship.

“She would do anything for him, give him the earth.

“She was just a fantastic mum for him. She was his life.”

Mrs Metzen said she first knew something was wrong when police and ambulances rushed through Wednesday night but only learnt of the tragedy on radio on Thursday morning.

“I went, ‘I bet you it is that family’. I don’t know why,” she said.

She said when she found out who it was, she broke down and cried.

Mrs Metzen said Luke’s parents were estranged when he was at the centre and the father “had a few issues”.

She believed he was homeless and living in a car at one stage and there may have been issues of family violence.

“She’d say a few things but nothing concrete.”

Mrs Metzen says while Rosie will not be coping well, the community will rally around her.

“She’s got no family around here. They’re all in England. She’s only relying on … friends she’s got here.”

“I just can’t find words, it’s horrific.

“He was a gorgeous kid and her world’s gone, basically.”

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Aussie women need to help out Karrie

Sarah Jane Smith says it’s time for someone else to step up and help Karrie Webb fly the Australian flag for women’s golf.

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Smith made an impressive start to the women’s Australian Open at Victoria Golf Club on Thursday, opening with a four-under 68 to head the local charge two shots behind clubhouse leader Suzann Pettersen.

NSW’s Julia Boland was next-best at two-under while four-time champion Webb finished her round at one-under.

Former world No.1 Webb is now ranked eighth but the gulf between her and Australia’s next-ranked female on the LPGA tour remains huge.

Katherine Kirk (nee Hull) is at 106, Stacey Keating 116, Lindsey Wright 126, Rebecca Artis 136 and Smith at 163.

“Karrie’s been flying the flag for Australian girls for a really long time and none of us has really helped her out too much,” said 29-year-old Queenslander Smith.

“Obviously Stacey and Rebecca have had wins in Europe over the last couple of years but as far as the (United) States go, Australia hasn’t done a hell of a lot, other than Karrie; I mean she’s killed it obviously.

“I think it’s time a couple of us sort of pulled it along a bit.”

Smith’s best-ever result was a tie for sixth at the 2012 Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama.

She has started this year in promising shape, finishing sixth at the New Zealand Open earlier this month and 13th at the Australian Ladies Masters on the Gold Coast last week.

She credits the form to focusing on feel rather than technique.

“At the start of last year I felt really good and like I was going the right way and then just lost track a little bit and got a little technical throughout the year,” she said.

“I then kind of figured it out a little bit and had a good solid month before we came home with my coach and got much less technical and a bit more back to feel how I sort of played I guess as an amateur more.”

Smith is hopeful that this year she finds some consistency in her game to make a dent on the rankings.

“I’ve worked really hard on my short game over the last year and I’ve got my ball striking back so hopefully now I can put the two together and that might be the next step,” she said.