Fake Qld doctor fined for bogus exemptions

·2-min read

A fake medical doctor who issued thousands of bogus exemptions for people to dodge COVID-19 tests, vaccinations and face masks has been fined $25,000.

Maria Carmela Pa, who pocketed more than $120,000 during the bogus certificate scam, pleaded guilty to masquerading as a medical doctor in Southport Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

The 45-year-old handed out more than 1200 counterfeit medical exemptions for people to avoid mandatory COVID restrictions in place during the early wave of the global pandemic. She charged for each exemption.

The court was told Pau had shown no remorse and remained defiant against COVID-19 health advice, urging people to "end the tyranny" of mandatory restrictions.

Defence barrister Greg McGuire said Pau held a doctorate of professional studies and a master's degree in public heath and was entitled to call herself a doctor.

She also studied psychology for a number of years, treating patients as a counsellor for addiction.

"The question is whether people believed she was a qualified medical doctor," Mr McGuire said.

"She was knowledgable and clearly passionate about the issue and believed she had the power to issue the exemption - she was not Sally Smith office worker making these claims."

Mr McGuire called for a "level head", telling the court Pau had been deeply distressed and had been hospitalised for three days at the height of the ordeal.

She had been publicly humiliated, her business had been destroyed and she was unable to find work, he said.

"This was a lady motivated solely by trying to help people who may well have been desperate," he said.

"She was motivated by good intentions."

While prosecutor Donn Reid said a period of imprisonment was not out of the question, Mr McGuire called for Pau to be handed a fine.

Acting magistrate Mark Bamberry said Pau was clearly an educated woman, but the restrictions had been put in place to protect the greater Queensland community during the deadly pandemic.

"She has turned a blind eye (to that) and went off on her own crusade," Mr Bamberry said.

He acknowledged Pau's career had been "decimated", but said she had only herself to blame and the sentence must stand as a significant deterrent.

"The Queensland community must be protected," Mr Bamberry said.

Pau faced a possible $60,000 fine and three years' imprisonment for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency offences.

Instead she was fined $25,000, with no conviction recorded.

Pau refused to comment on the fine outside court.

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