‘Spiritual Insights Coach’ Fined for Posing As A Doctor and Selling Fake COVID Exemptions

The scheme saw the woman pocket more than $120,000 from people all over Australia.

A “spiritual insights coach” and self-described COVID-denier has been fined $25,000 by a Queensland court for posing as a doctor and selling fake COVID-19 exemption certificates that helped countless people flout pandemic restrictions at the height of lockdowns. 

Maria Carmela Pau, who has a doctorate in professional research studies and a master’s degree in public health, faced Southport Magistrates Court on Wednesday, where she pleaded guilty to pretending to be a doctor and aiding people in evading coronavirus restrictions. 

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The court heard she had pocketed at least $120,000 from issuing meaningless exemption certificates to people from all over Australia. 

Pau becomes the first person in Queensland to face charges as a result of pandemic fraud, after police raided her apartment in the Gold Coast back in October last year only to find a smattering of phones, laptops and even diary entries that Pau tried to argue were being used for meetings with clients. 

Police eventually went to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority, the medical watchdog, to check whether Pau was in fact a doctor at all. The authority said she wasn’t a registered health practitioner, but that it wouldn’t move to lay charges of its own.

Throughout the case’s hearing, the court heard that Pau showed no remorse for the offending, which included questioning the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and encouraged people to “stand up to this tyranny”. 

Even then, her barrister, Greg McGuire, urged the court to keep a level head and consider the difficulties brought upon Pau as a result of the case itself, before considering a maximum sentence of $60,000 in fines. 

He argued that it’s possible that she was “perfectly entitled” to call herself a doctor, even without any medical qualifications, because she had worked in substance abuse counselling. 

Failing that, McGuire persisted, maybe her doctorate in professional research studies had led her to believe she had the power to issue the exemptions, because she had “formed her own opinion from her  own research and knowledge”. 

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Mark Bamberry, the Acting Magistrate, asked Pau how she could have committed the offences, considering her education, turning a “blind eye” and “going off” on her own crusade, before handing down the sentence. 

Pau won’t have a criminal record, but the prosecutor was hoping for more. 

In a submission to the court, prosecutor Donn Reid said that even though Pau didn’t have a criminal history, even the maximum fine of $60,000 wouldn’t reflect how criminal her actions were, and, early in the piece, said imprisonment wasn’t out of the question. 

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Tagged:

Crime, Australia, COVID-19, NEW ZEALAND

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