Paul Pisasale.
Paul Pisasale.

Verdict revealed: The case against Pisasale

FORMER Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale has been convicted on two counts of extortion today at the close of his Brisbane District Court trial.

The jury delivered the verdict this afternoon, finding the 67-year-old guilty of having committed extortion when he demanded money from the ex-boyfriend of a Chinese escort he was seeing.

His co-accused, China-born escort/masseuse Yutian Li, now 39, has also been convicted of two counts of extortion, while Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie, 37, has been convicted on one extortion count.

Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie, 37, was convicted on one extortion count. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie, 37, was convicted on one extortion count. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

Pisasale met Li in January 2017 when a massage was arranged for him from the woman, apparently by his barrister friend Sam Di Carlo.

That massage included sexual services and the relationship continued with messages over mobile phone application WeChat, phone calls, dinner meetings and trips to the Gold Coast and Melbourne.

Unknown to Pisasale, his phone calls at the time were being listened into by the Crime and Corruption Commission, which was investigating Ipswich City Council.

Soon after meeting, Li told Pisasale she had been jilted by her Sydney taxi driver ex-boyfriend, who she said had promised to marry her, only to later break up by telling her he was dying.

The then-mayor agreed to step in by first posing as a telemarketer named George Robinson conducting a health survey - finding out the ex-boyfriend was already married with a child.

Pisasale made the call while driving to the Gold Coast with Li, putting the call on speaker phone.

Li later messages Pisasale: "You need to punishing my ex-boyfriend."

China-born escort/masseuse Yutian Li, 39, was found guilty of two counts of extortion. Picture: Glenn Hunt
China-born escort/masseuse Yutian Li, 39, was found guilty of two counts of extortion. Picture: Glenn Hunt

Pisasale replies to say "yes" and tells her to bring his phone number when they next meet.

He then posed as a private investigator, initially demanding almost $10,000 for Li to pay for what he described as what it had cost her "to find out the truth" about his marital status.

During the calls, Pisasale made a series of threats to the man, Xin Li, including that he would "issue him with a summons to go to court" and that he would be sued for $200,000.

Pisasale also says he will need a lawyer, and that the court action would cost him up to $30,000.

He also threatens that he will be talking to the Australian Government and that he "knows the Immigration Minister."

During the calls, the ex-boyfriend asks Pisasale numerous times who he is, but he refuses to say.

"I'm a private investigator. She just wants to find out the truth otherwise we will be proceeding with court action," he tells the man.

"What message, that we fight or agree to resolve it?" he continues. "Otherwise it becomes very public in Australia. A very public court case. She is going to proceed to the court. She has some lawyer friends that (will) help her."

He then says it had cost Li $6000-$7000 in investigations, but he felt sorry for her and had given her a discount. "Are you prepared to give her money to go away?" he asks.

Pisasale later rings Ipswich lawyer Cameron McKenzie and instructs him to write a letter of demand to the man, telling him: "I rang the guy yesterday pretending I was a private investigator."

He then suggests how the letter should be worded. The pair then spent time in Melbourne.

A letter of demand was sent to the ex-boyfriend soon after, demanding $8400 for Li, including $6100 for the cost of her having hired a private investigator.

But no private investigator existed, apart from Pisasale "pretending" to be one.

The letter said the man had seven days to accept the offer of an application would be filed in the Federal Court.

But Pisasale by then had already told McKenzie the matter was never going to court.

When the ex-boyfriend did not respond to the letter of demand, Pisasale told McKenzie they must "scare the shit out of him".

He said he had found out that Li created a false name to get Australian citizenship.

He suggest wording stating that, through investigations, they had found out there was another identity, and they needed to resolve the issue or use other methods to find out the truth.

A second letter was drafted but not sent after Li messaged Pisasale to say she did not want to threaten the ex-boyfriend anymore.

Pisasale during the trial argued he believed Li was owed money, but prosecutors told the court he tried to use the ex-boyfriend to obtain money for Li, enabling her to stay in Australia.

The court heard a series of damning phone calls intercepted by the CCC during the seven-day trial, including one in which Pisasale discusses Li, telling a friend of Li: "Oh the first night I f---ed her was good, but she's so naive."

He continued that "when you come back there is good photos of her."

Pisasale will be held in custody overnight awaiting sentencing on Thursday afternoon after being convicted of two counts of extortion.

His barrister has this afternoon asked for his health issues and age to be taken into account his sentencing, saying he was on a regime that included the use of anti-depressants and mood stabilisers.

He has asked for Judge Brad Farr to consider a partially suspended sentence as opposed to a parole release date.


EARLIER: PAUL Pisasale has been found guilty of two counts of extortion, a jury has found.

The jury reached the verdict about 2.30pm today after a day of deliberation.

Pisasale, the former high-flying mayor of Ipswich, demanded money from the ex-boyfriend of escort Yutian Li.

He made a series of phone calls to the ex-boyfriend posing as a private investigator in which he demanded up to $10,000 for Li and made various threats.

Pisasale later instructed solicitor, Cameron McKenzie to send a letter of demand to the ex-boyfriend for $8400, which included $6100 for a private investigator.

McKenzie and Li, have also been found guilty of extortion. 

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