Qld's Patton Eidson, 73, facing deportation over false ID
AN ELDERLY man who lived as a fugitive in a secluded Far North town for almost three decades is being held under armed guard in Cairns.
His family is terrified he will be sent to Christmas Island.
About 15 police and immigration officials swooped on Patton Eidson's house in Julatten on Wednesday, arresting the 73-year-old ahead of removal from Australia.
The US citizen, his wife and daughter entered the country on false passports in 1986 as authorities began investigating his alleged links to a Thai-Californian cannabis ring.
He served time in Australian prison after his true identity was exposed in 2013, but the US Government did not seek to extradite him.
His daughter Karina Maya Eidson was just 16 when she arrived in the country.
Her Australian citizenship was revoked last year, with Mr Eidson granted a bridging visa until her legal fight to stay in the country had ended.
"We don't know if they're going to send him to Christmas Island or holding him in Brisbane," Ms Eidson said.
"Why would you do all of that to a 73-year-old man who wasn't doing anybody any harm, who was just waiting for a court date?"
"The Minister (Peter Dutton) decided in April 2016 that this man, who has outstanding arrest warrants in the United States, failed to meet the character requirements under section 501 of the Migration Act," he said.
"He and his family arrived in Australia in 1986 using false identities and fraudulently obtained visas, and in the case of Mr Eidson's daughter, Australian citizenship, on the basis of these false identities."
Mr Eidson entered the country under the name Mike McGoldrick, setting up and operating the Julatten Mountain Retreat in the rainforest hinterlands near Port Douglas.
It was a trailblazer for the region, as the first of many health spas that triggered the area's now-booming wellness industry.
"They have had their case comprehensively assessed over many years by the department, the courts, various ministers and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal," the Immigration Department spokesman said.
"Mr Eidson has failed in his bid to obtain a visa, and he has been detained ahead of his removal from Australia.
"The Australian Government treats all cases of migration and identity fraud very seriously and has no tolerance for those who fail to meet the character requirements of the Migration Act."
Julatten resident Steve McDonald issued a statement describing the arrest after Mr Eidson called him saying he had about 30 to 40 minutes to organise his possessions to leave his home.
"On my arrival I was appalled to see over a dozen officers were there, unannounced to escort one man out of his home," Mr McDonald said.
"I observed as he was gathering his personal possessions, he was searched at each movement.
"I asked the Immigration Officer where they were taking Mike to and was told 'We don't have to tell you'.
"As Mike was being escorted to the car I said, 'I will come and see you tomorrow in Cairns', and was replied by an immigration officer, 'No you won't'."
Mr McDonald said he was sickened by the process.
"Mike is not a flight risk due to his family ties in this community and this country," he said.
"As was seen in his sentencing in Cairns (in August 2012), the court room was full - with standing room only.
"All the people in that room were community supporters of Mike.
"Mike is my beloved friend, my father-in-law, a father and a grandfather."
Ms Eidson, who owns and operates Mackay tapas bar Maria's Donkey, said her father was still grieving after the November death of his wife Sonja.
"We all are. He's just been trying to get through every day," she said.
"His health hasn't been good either. He's got emphysema and struggles quite a bit with his breathing.
"He leads a very quiet life up in Julatten with his little dog.
"I try to visit as often as I can, and my daughter tries to visit.
"We try to get him here (to Mackay) every few months just to get him out of the house.
"But he still sees his friends, and is still doing things around the community."
He accused the government of terrorising a "well-loved, popular, respectable citizen".
"Patton has contributed - he built a business and has paid his taxes and we have made repeated representations on his behalf," Mr Katter said.
"The Eidsons have been a very contributing family.
"Patton and his late wife Sonja, they opened up their home and pioneered the wellness industry in Far North Queensland, creating jobs for people in an area that desperately needed jobs.
"Patton's daughter, Maya, has one of the best restaurants in Mackay, where we're desperately short of jobs and good high-class restaurants for our tourists and our locals.
"Remember this is a bloke that came from America and his wife came from Europe.
"He just lost his wife of almost 50 years married.
"I mean, the horrible insensitivity of what has occurred here is appalling and we will be saying so in formal questions with notice to the two ministers involved."
Mr Katter said the Immigration Department's actions were evidence of Australia becoming a country scared of police overkill.
"This poor 73-year-old bloke who's just lost his wife and was responsible for some alleged misdemeanour nearly half a century ago - to be detained by 15 police or government officers, it's just sickening," he said.
"If you're using government resources to terrorise a well-loved, popular, respectable citizen you'd say it's a waste of resources.
"Would one say these resources could be better used? Well quite frankly yes.
"I mean, a while ago, we had 23 police surrounded a bloke who made some stupid statements at a crocodile farm.
"Now they're sending mass amounts of police/government officers around a bloke (Patton) that is so popular in his local community, the community plead his cause and stand by his side.
"When Patton had a little get together, I would have thought there were nearly 100 people - which would have been half of the town there, supporting him.
"This sort of thing that happened last night to Patton, terrifies people."
Mr Eidson is being held in a Cairns unit while his medical fitness for travel is assessed.