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Fake doctor forced to wear mask, fronts court over Covid counterfeits

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A Queensland woman accused of pretending to be a medical practitioner to issue fake medical certificates to get around coronavirus restrictions has faced court.

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Maria Carmela Pau had to be ordered by security to wear a face mask before being allowed to enter Southport Magistrates Court on Thursday.

The 45-year-old accused of issuing more than 600 counterfeit certificates said the holder was exempt from undergoing COVID-19 testing, getting a vaccine and wearing a mask.

She faces charges of masquerading as a health practitioner and is the first person in Queensland to be charged with this offence.

On social media accounts, Pau lists her qualification as being a doctor of professional conduct.

Police say the woman holds no registered doctorate with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and believes she was entitled to issue the certificates.

“She’s indicating from what I’ve read that her qualifications and her interpretation of the legislation allows her to,” Detective Acting Inspector Damien Powell said after her arrest.

“However, that’s contrary to the view of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency who are the registering body.”

The woman allegedly told police that she does hold a doctorate, but not in medicine.

Defence lawyer Ali Rana represented Pau at her first appearance as the matter was adjourned until November 18.

Pau potentially faces a maximum fine of $10,000 and a term of imprisonment under the AHPRA offences.

Those people found to have used the documents under false pretences, knowing she was not authorised to issue them, could also face prosecution in relation to fraud offences.

Police will allege payments were made to Pau via bank transfer and via cash, and the investigation is ongoing.

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