Conwoman Belle Gibson faces $1m fines over cancer scam fundraising fraud

toper01

Moderator
Staff member
Cancer conwoman Belle Gibson faces more than $1 million in penalties for profiting off false cancer claims and defrauding charities while orchestrating a global health scam that gave false hope to seriously ill people and fooled multinational companies including Apple and Penguin.

In the most significant action taken against the disgraced "wellness" blogger, Victoria's consumer watchdog on Friday launched legal proceedings in the Federal Court that pave the way for serious penalties against Ms Gibson.

The action is in response to Ms Gibson's false claims of beating terminal brain cancer by eschewing conventional medicine, and the unlawful fundraising appeals run by The Whole Pantry founder in 2013 and 2014.


Wellness blogger Belle Gibson claimed she had beaten terminal brain cancer.

Her publisher, Penguin, will have to pay $30,000 for failing to fact-check Ms Gibson's book, The Whole Pantry, in which she claims to have cured herself with a healthy lifestyle.

In a landmark order, Penguin will also be forced to include "prominent warning" notices on all future books containing claims about natural therapies that explain they are not evidence-based.

Consumer Affairs Victoria said the legal action followed an in-depth investigation into alleged breaches of Australian Consumer Law. CAV director Simon Cohen has applied for leave to commence proceedings against Inkerman Road Nominees Pty Ltd in the Federal Court.


Penguin has been fined for publishing Belle Gibson's lies.

Leave is required because the company, formerly known as Belle Gibson Pty Ltd, is in liquidation. Documents filed by the liquidator reveal Gibson owes almost $140,000, including an $83,500 tax bill.

If leave is granted, Ms Gibson will be hauled before the court and faces the prospect of penalties up to $1.1 million.

Penguin agreed to an enforceable undertaking admitting to violations under consumer law. It failed to make Ms Gibson substantiate her claims prior to the book's publication and admitted the story set out in the book had "no basis in fact".

[img alt="Belle Gibson in the ." src="http://www.smh.com.au/content/dam/images/1/m/q/u/h/m/image.imgtype.articleLeadwide.620x349.png/1431938015796.png" title="" width="100%">
Belle Gibson in the Australian Women's Weekly. Photo: AWW


CAV said it was concerned that the book was marketed to people with cancer, those who had a family history of cancer and those with friends and relatives suffering from cancer.

"The director considers that these people were unusually susceptible, in that their illnesses, fears, family history or close relationship to cancer sufferers, pre-disposed them to being influenced by the statements [about the cancer diagnosis and treatment]," the undertaking said.

Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett said the legal application was the first step in seeking justice for everyone Ms Gibson deceived.

She defended the decision to launch a civil lawsuit against Ms Gibson, instead of the more criminal fraud charges.

"The view of the experts is that this is the best approach to obtain justice for Victoria, not only because of the seriousness of the allegations ... but also around the broad range of orders the court can make to ensure Ms Gibson never engages in behaviour such as this again."

Ms Garrett said it appeared Ms Gibson believed she would "get away scot-free ... but clearly this is not the case today".

"Selling people snake oil is as old as the hills, but its devastating damage is as fresh today," she said. "You will never put people back into the position they were in if they believed this material and this book ... but this is an important step forward."

Consumer Affairs launched its investigation into Ms Gibson's questionable fundraising activities after Fairfax Media revealed she had stolen thousands of dollars raised for charity through multiple fundraising appeals.

Ms Gibson was exposed for failing to hand over the donations and lying about giving $300,000 away to charity.

The revelations cast serious doubt over her claims of beating terminal brain cancer - the story she used to build an empire that included a highly acclaimed recipe book and top-rating smartphone app.

Eventually, she admitted lying about her cancer diagnosis. "No … None of it's true," she told the Australian Women's Weekly.


Belle Gibson in the 60 Minutes episode. Photo: 60 Minutes

Ms Gibson, now 24, has been slammed by health professionals, cancer sufferers and furious former fans for profiting from false hope and discouraging terminally ill people from using conventional medical treatment.

But she remains unrepentant and has never apologised for her actions despite claiming to have helped "countless people", including cancer patients, dump conventional medicine.

In an interview with 60 Minutes last year, Ms Gibson insisted she wasn't "trying to get away with anything".

If the Federal Court refuses to grant leave to pursue Ms Gibson's company, Consumer Affairs said it would reassess and pursue Ms Gibson personally.
 

toper01

Moderator
Staff member
Still trying to sell pseudoscience and scam people to the end.:mad:
DISGRACED wellness blogger Belle Gibson will face a penalty handed down by the Victorian Federal Court for a majority of claims against her of defrauding clients and profiting from false cancer claims.

Justice Debbie Mortimer handed down her judgment on Wednesday morning in Melbourne, saying Ms Gibson had contravened the law in “most, but not all” allegations against the 25-year-old who faked brain cancer.

“I have upheld most, but not all of the allegations,” Justice Mortimer told the court room.

“Ms Gibson deliberately played on the genuine desire of members of the Australian community to help those less fortunate.

“Her ‘pitch’ overwhelmingly used groups likely to evoke sympathy because of their vulnerabilities — young girls, asylum seekers, sick children.”

Justice Mortimer said Ms Gibson consulted GP Dr Phillip Soffer in November 2014, and claimed it was then that she learnt she didn’t have cancer, but she failed to inform Apple, Google or Penguin of that fact.

“Ms Gibson explained this by saying that first, she would not update Apple on health or personal matters, and second, that she was in shock and denial at the time that she received the news that she was cleared of cancer diagnoses.”



“I am satisfied Ms Gibson and her company made a representation as to existing fact that was misleading or deceptive in any event,” Justice Mortimer said.

Belle Gibson was not in court and will hear her judgement at a later date.

But the judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Ms Gibson never believed she had cancer, and that at the time she may have been under “some kind of delusion” when blogging about her fake cancer.

“It seems to me that, at least in some respects, it might be open to find that Ms Gibson suffered from a series of delusions about her health condition,” Justice Mortimer said.

The judge went on to say that not all humans are “rational and reasonable all of the time”.



Consumer Affairs Victoria accused Ms Gibson of engaging in “unconscionable conduct” after she curated a large social media following and released a cookbook and app called The Whole Pantry.

Ms Gibson took in more than $1 million in profits from her cookbook and app, after she told fans that she’d eschewed traditional cancer treatments in favour of “clean eating” and juice cleanses.

The young mother claimed she was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009 and given four months to live.

As well as the fake cancer claims, Consumer Affairs Victoria also accused Ms Gibson of not passing on up to $300,000 in promised charity donations.

“The alleged contraventions relate to false claims by Ms Gibson and her company concerning her diagnosis with terminal brain cancer, her rejection of conventional cancer treatments in favour of natural remedies, and the donation of proceeds to various charities,” CVA said in a statement last year.

In April 2015, the 25-year-old told The Australian Women’s Weekly that her claims were false.

“No. None of it’s true,” she confessed. “I am still jumping between what I think I know and what is reality. I have lived it and I’m not really there yet,” she said.

Along with the fine, CAV is seeking an injunction preventing Gibson from engaging in similar conduct, and has also requested she make a public apology in the Herald Sun and The Australian newspapers.



In the days leading up to the final judgment, Ms Gibson credited a new fad diet on Facebook with healing mouth cavities and shrinking her tonsils by 30 per cent.

On the closed Facebook page for Master Fast Diet, Ms Gibson gushed of how the diet and health program had changed her life.

“What a blessed week!” Ms Gibson, who went by the pseudonym Harry Gibson, wrote on the page.

“I don’t know if it was the short month of February or if I lost count and confused myself but i thought today was my two week mark of full MFS.

“Turns out it is actually day 10, still great, but damn happy 2 week celebration dance in bed this morning for no reason ;)

Among several questionable claims, including dropping weight and changing her eye colour, Gibson told members of the group that since starting the natural eating plan she had also passed a “huge rope worm” and she would “never get a filling again”.



The group, which advocates fasting and drinking herbal teas, was founded by Canadian alternative health practitioner Luigi Di Serio.

“If you have been given a death sentence and without hope, let us teach you that EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE and your situation CAN be turned around no matter what “they” named your dis-ease,” the Master Fast System website read.

“My experience shows only my body has the capability to heal itself with access to the correct “INFORMATION”. I found that no pills, doctors, herbs, food, minerals, vitamins, etc. can ever heal your body.”

The diet advocates taking activated charcoal, kidney tea and doing regular enemas, claiming the fast can cure anything.

Since learning of her history, some members of the Master Fast System Facebook group have turned on Gibson, calling her a ‘liar’ and feeling “deceived”.

“Don’t believe a word she says people,” one member of the group said.

“I used to follow her blog, and I was devastated when I found out it was all a lie. I’m battling cancer myself and felt so deceived. I just can’t believe she’s at it again. This group is about love and healing, not lies.”

Ms Gibson, who went by the name Harry Gibson on Facebook, is no longer part of the group. Her Facebook account has since been removed.



Gibson curated a large social media following and released a cookbook and app called The Whole Pantry, where she told fans that she’d eschewed traditional cancer treatments in favour of “clean eating” and juice cleanses.

But in April 2015, she told The Australian Women’s Weekly that her claims were false.

“I think my life has just got so many complexities around it and within it, that it’s just easier to assume [I’m lying],” she said.

“If I don’t have an answer, then I will sort of theorise it myself and come up with one. I think that’s an easy thing to often revert to if you don’t know what the answer is.”

Gibson told The Weekly she had a “troubled” childhood, which may have led her to lie about her condition.

The young mother — she has a son called Olivier — said that as a five-year-old girl she had been forced to care for her mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and run the household, while also looking after her autistic brother.



But Gibson’s mother Natalie Dal-Bello said none of that is true.

“What a lot of rubbish,” Mrs Dal-Bello told The Weekly, saying the only truth to the story was her MS.

“Her brother is not autistic and she’s barely done a minute’s housework in her life,” she said.

“I’ve practically worked myself into an early grave to give that girl everything she wanted in life.”

Mrs Dal-Bello said she had not been in touch with her estranged daughter for years and was unaware of her success as a wellness blogger.

“I can’t tell you how embarrassed we are about what she has done,” she said.

“She just plucked bits and pieces of other people’s medical problems and assumed them as her own. She had a heart problem growing up, but that was it.

“She doesn’t seem to be sorry. There doesn’t appear to be any remorse. I’ve never seen her cry in her life.”

Ms Gibson took in more than $1 million in profits from her cookbook and app.



Gibson’s publisher, Penguin Australia, could also be implicated in the case.

Last year, CVAdirector Simon Cohen said Penguin Australia “had willingly co-operated with a concurrent investigation that examined whether the company had also violated” the Australian Consumer Law.

Mr Cohen said Penguin had admitted that it had not “required Ms Gibson to substantiate her claims prior to the book’s publication” and “will make a $30,000 donation to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund.”

Last September, a shocking video revealed Penguin was concerned about cracks in Gibson’s story. The video showed Gibson undergoing media training and mock interviews with Penguin publicists, and was asked to prepare for interrogation from investigative journalists.

“What we suspect might happen now is that because you are a success story of the moment — you are one of Australia’s great success stories of the moment — you know what journalists do, they want to start scratch, scratch, scratching away,” a woman said in the video, off-camera.

“They already are,” replied Gibson.

“And we’re concerned about that,” the Penguin representative said



The judgement will be handed down at a later date.

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/judgement-in-belle-gibson-vs-consumer-affairs-victoria-case-to-be-handed-down/news-story/187169614b483a5cede9f3380837e4d6
 

toper01

Moderator
Staff member
DISGRACED health personality Belle Gibson has to pay $30,000 towards the legal costs of Consumer Affairs Victoria and is banned from making deceptive claims about her health in connection with wellbeing advice.

But the Federal Court orders, handed down in Melbourne on Friday, could just be the beginning of punishment for the businesswoman who said she had brain cancer and then claimed a miraculous recovery.

Annabelle Natalie Gibson is yet to be penalised for the misleading and unconscionable conduct the Federal Court has found her guilty of. The consumer watchdog also wants the young mother to publish an apology in The Australian and Herald Sun newspapers.

Justice Debra Mortimer has ordered that Gibson is prohibited from claiming, in connection with the development and promotion and sale of her wellness advice: — that she had been diagnosed with brain cancer at any time before May 24, 2016 — that she was given four months to live — that she had taken and then rejected conventional cancer treatments in favour of embarking on a quest to heal herself naturally.

Consumer Affairs Victoria took Gibson to court last year alleging she had lied about a 2009 brain cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery. It was also alleged that she had lied to consumers about donating to charities from the sales of her Whole Pantry app.

Gibson advertised that money from product sales would go to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, the Birthing Kit Foundation and five-year-old brain cancer sufferer Joshua Schwarz, among others.

In reality, she gave little or no money to these groups and Joshua, but used the promise of giving to boost her own image and success, Justice Mortimer said. Gibson’s donations were “sporadic” and “opportunistic”, apparently motivated by media investigations into her claims.

Last month, the judge said Gibson may have been under “some kind of delusion” about having cancer and questioned whether she had a psychological problem. There is no one to answer that question because neither Gibson nor any lawyer on her behalf has ever turned up to the Federal Court case.

For this reason, Justice Mortimer has not been able to find that Gibson concocted a “ruse from the start” to deceive consumers.

However, she found the allegations of misleading and unconscionable conduct to be mostly true, saying Gibson had “played on the genuine desire of members of the Australian community to help those less fortunate”.

An excerpt from Gibson’s Whole Pantry Book describes her journey from being told she had four months to live, to finding out she was pregnant, to rejecting medical intervention and travelling the country in search of natural treatment and non-medical advice.

Gibson has 60 days to pay Consumer Affairs Victoria and if she refuses to obey, she will be liable for imprisonment, sequestration of property or other punishment, the court orders say.

Penalties for her deceptive and unconscionable conduct are expected to be handed down in mid-June.

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/belle-gibson-fined-30k-in-vic-court/news-story/8ef57444e4611f253292165b2bd81218
 
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