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"Conman might not necessarily be a curable condition." Hamish McLaren faces his victims in court, & more in News in 5.

-With AAP.

1. “Conman might not necessarily be a curable condition.” Hamish McLaren faces his victims in court.

A serial fraudster, who dressed like James Bond and drove an Aston Martin, “mercilessly” swindled more than a dozen people of $7.66 million, a NSW judge says.

“Conman might not necessarily be a curable condition,” Acting Judge Colin Charteris said in Sydney’s Downing Centre District Court on Thursday.

Hamish Earle McLaren, 49, has pleaded guilty to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Mia Freedman interviewed Hamish McLaren’s ex-wife Bec Rosen on No Filter. Post continues after the podcast.

The charges carry a maximum jail term of 10 and 15 years respectively.

McLaren was the subject of The Australian podcast investigation Who The Hell Is Hamish, which had been unravelling his deceit.

The fraudster was arrested in July 2017 after his multiple faux investment schemes – including in currency, gold and shares in a “profitable” Papua New Guinea gold mine – came unstuck.

He fleeced 15 victims over six years from 2011 including Australian fashion designer Lisa Ho.

Ms Ho gave McLaren $850,000 in superannuation after he promised a low-risk investment with a high return, the agreed facts state.

She took him to court after being duped and McLaren was declared bankrupt in 2016 but continued his scam.

Crown prosecutor Carl Young told the sentence hearing on Thursday there were 11 victims in relation to a “Ponzi or pyramid scheme” headed by McLaren.

“There’s then a 12th victim to which the offender represented himself as a barrister, and a 13th victim to who he sought a loan promising he would pay it back with interest but did not,” he said.

McLaren “was motivated by greed, not need” and his “systematic dishonesty” wasn’t related to any mental illness, Mr Young said.

Wearing a light grey suit with a blue tie and pocket square, McLaren took notes in the dock and didn’t turn his eyes to the many victims – including Ms Ho – who filled the packed courtroom.

Acting Judge Charteris said McLaren had destroyed their faith in other human beings.

“No one could imagine what it’s like to have that happen,” he said, noting some had lost upwards of $1 million.

“They’ve been given a life sentence in relation to their losses. Some of these assets are built up over decades.”

He said McLaren was the only person who knew what happened to the money.

The fraudster, in a letter to the judge, said he was truly sorry and jail was a constant reminder of his failings.

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“I will never have the opportunity to turn back the clock. I wish I could do more to right the wrongs I am so ashamed of,” McLaren wrote.

“The labels of conman and alike are deserved.”

When giving character evidence, McLaren’s brother-in-law, Christopher Rourke, described him as increasingly “reckless” as a supposed futures trader and prone to exaggeration.

“He would watch a James Bond movie and then dress like James Bond,” Mr Rourke said, adding that this occurred up until the last film starring Daniel Craig.

“Same suit, same hair.”

He said McLaren also owned an Aston Martin and, at another stage, he believed he was leasing two Ferraris.

“He was always good for someone’s birthday. He showered his girlfriends (with gifts),” Mr Rourke said.

But he didn’t know how McLaren’s generosity was funded.

Barrister Gabriel Wendler said his client had his “eye on the future” and urged the judge to be satisfied he was unlikely to re-offend.

He conceded McLaren had no financial services qualifications – having worked as a personal trainer and ski instructor – but also had no prior criminal record.

The judge asked: “Are you still a first offender when you commit the 18th (offence)?”

McLaren is due to be sentenced on June 20.

2. Parolee admits to raping, choking and filming a seven-year-old girl in dance studio.

A convicted rapist has admitted raping a young girl in a Sydney dance studio and then attacking two people who came to the seven-year-old’s aid.

Anthony Peter Sampieri on Thursday pleaded guilty to three counts of raping the girl as he held her captive in the bathroom of a Kogarah dance studio in November 2018.

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The 55-year-old also admitted detaining the girl, choking her in order to commit a serious offence, filming her as he committed two indecent acts and indecently assaulting her.

He also admitted assaulting a woman and wounding Nick Gilio with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after the pair burst into the bathroom to save the girl.

Sampieri was arrested on the night of the attack, November 15, before it emerged he’d been out on parole after raping a woman years earlier.

As a result of the 10 guilty pleas submitted on Thursday, prosecutors withdrew five other charges alleging an assault, two woundings, the use of an offensive weapon to prevent lawful detention and the use of a child to make child abuse material.

A bearded Sampieri appeared via video link in Sydney’s Central Local Court from custody as his lawyer, Penny Musgrave, entered the pleas on his behalf.

He gave brief responses of “that’s right”, “yes” and “OK” during the court appearance as magistrate Robert Williams committed him for sentence in Downing Centre District Court on June 21.

Sampieri is due to again appear via video link.

The court heard some facts were in dispute and an agreed fact sheet would be filed in the District Court.

Sampieri also faces 29 charges of making threatening phone calls in the weeks before the dance studio attack.

He’s due to appear before Central Local Court on July 10 on those matters.

A police officer is separately facing charges of neglecting his duty for allegedly mishandling a complaint about the paroled rapist in early November.

Leading Senior Constable Andrew Michael Bruce has pleaded not guilty to all four charges and is currently suspended with pay.

3. Craig McLachlan faces three-week hearing to fight indecent assault charges.

craig mclachlan fight claims
Craig McLachlan. Image via Getty.
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Award-winning actor Craig McLachlan will face a three-week hearing to fight indecent assault charges in Melbourne.

The former soap star is facing seven counts of indecent assault and single counts of assault and attempted indecent assault.

"What's alleged is denied," McLachlan's lawyer Damian Sheales told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday.

More than a dozen witnesses are expected to give evidence at a contested hearing in November.

Up to 30 prosecution witnesses are listed, but the number would likely be reduced to about 18, the court was told.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said some witnesses would be from overseas and remote facilities would need to be arranged.

Alternative charges were also going to be filed "sooner rather than later", he said.

McLachlan's alleged offending, which is believed to stem from allegations raised by acting colleagues, occurred between late April and mid-July in 2014 in Melbourne, court documents show.

Around that time, McLachlan was starring in the Rocky Horror Show stage production in Melbourne, playing Dr Frank-N-Furter.

The actor became a household name for his roles on Australian soap operas Neighbours and Home and Away.

He won a Gold Logie in 1990 and more recently led the Ballarat-filmed TV series Doctor Blake Mysteries.

McLachlan was not required to appear in court on Thursday but will appear for the contest hearing starting on November 18.

4. UK signs extradition order to send WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to US.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid says he has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, telling the BBC that it will be up to the courts to decide the next step.

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Javid told the broadcaster that Australian citizen Assange, 47, was "rightly behind bars".

"There's an extradition request from the US that is before the courts tomorrow, but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it, and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow," he said.

Assange's lawyers are expected to challenge Javid's decision, paving the way for a lengthy appeal process through British courts.

The US government has accused Assange of conspiring with former US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak a trove of classified material in 2010.

He has been held at London's Belmarsh prison since police dragged him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 11.

He had spent seven years inside the embassy to avoid arrest.

Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison on May 1 after he was found guilty of breaching bail conditions related to an earlier extradition request from Sweden, which had wanted him to answer allegations of rape and sexual assault.

After visiting him at the prison hospital on Tuesday, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei reported that Assange's health is "deteriorating".

5. Matildas stun Brazil 3-2 comeback classic.

The Matildas have reignited their stuttering World Cup campaign, producing a stunning come-from-behind 3-2 victory against old foes Brazil.

Trailing 2-0 and with their qualification hopes appearing dead, Caitlin Foord and Chloe Logarzo brought Australia back from the mire, before Monica's own goal gifted the Matildas a priceless win.

It is only the second time a team have come from 2-0 down to win at the Women's World Cup, with Sweden, who beat Germany in 1995, the only other side to muster a similar comeback.

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After a first-up loss to Italy and early goals by Brazilian duo Marta and Cristiane, the Matildas were on the rack in Montpellier.

Instead of collapsing, the grit and verve synonymous with the side came to the fore.

Within the confines of the 90 minutes, this was a fantastic win.

Given the weight of expectations and negativity in the air, it was an all-time classic.

Logarzo's power of running was immense, Tameka Yallop was relentless and Sam Kerr made her infrequent contributions tell.

But against the run of play, Australia found themselves behind on 27 minutes.

Elise Kellond-Knight grabbed Leticia Santos' shirt in the box and Marta converted from the penalty spot for a record-breaking strike.

With her 16th World Cup goal, the Brazilian legend became the first woman to score at five tournaments.

Further pain was to come 10 minutes later, when Cristiane doubled the South Americans' lead.

Tamires nutmegged Emily Gielnik and released Debinha, whose inviting cross was met by Cristiane, who rose above a flat-footed Steph Catley to nod past Lydia Williams.

Humiliated, arguing amongst themselves, and two down, the Matildas set off on a rescue mission.

Kerr was seeing more of the ball and Gielnik had a sighter, but it was two of Australia's hardest workers that put the Matildas on the board.

Yallop fired in a cross to find her midfield partner Logarzo, who headed down for Foord to bundle home and punish some woeful Brazilian defending.

The strike, in first-half injury time, gave the Matildas a modicum of confidence as they headed into the break.

Their fire was evident from the get-go, and soon enough the game was back on terms.

On 58 minutes, Logarzo fizzed the ball across goal and Barbara, distracted by the run of Kerr, somehow lost track of the shot and let it in at her back post.

Australia were level, and with all the momentum, pushed on.

Kerr was again involved for Australia's winner, keeping the defence busy as Emily van Egmond's long ball was unfortunately headed home by Monica.

The 66th-minute strike was subject to a long VAR discussion, with Brazil claiming Kerr was in an offside position when Monica's flicked header sailed past Barbara and into the net.

However, the goal stood and the Matildas held on comfortably for the last 25 minutes to seal a crucial win.

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