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Plocher: ‘I stand firmly’ with Vescovo’s handling of Derges situation

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — House Majority Floor Leader Dean Plocher said he is supportive of the decisions Speaker Rob Vescovo has made following Rep. Tricia Derges’ federal indictment over an alleged stem cell treatment scheme. 

Derges was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this week for an alleged stem cell treatment scheme, among other things. House Speaker Vescovo has removed Derges from her committee assignments and called for her to step down from her seat earlier this week. 

“I believe in the long-standing principle of due process,” Plocher told The Missouri Times. “While I have not publicly called for her resignation, I stand firmly with Speaker Vescovo’s position.” 

Plocher said he has not had contact with Derges since before the indictment.

“The legal process will ultimately determine her guilt or innocence, but this is clearly a time for her to spend with her family as she focuses on her legal issues, and for the people of the 140th district to move forward with selecting a replacement who can effectively advocate for their interests,” Vescovo said. 

But Stacie Bilyeu, the representative’s Springfield attorney, said Derges “has no plans to announce her resignation at this time.” 

“I would hope that our lawmakers would hold true to that fundamental American principle of innocence until and IF proven guilty,” Bilyeu told The Missouri Times in a text message Thursday morning.

Bilyeu wouldn’t say if Derges plans to be in the Capitol for legislative duties next week; she’s been marked absent with leave in the House Journals this week. 

Derges, 63, was charged with 20 counts ranging from wire fraud to making false statements to federal agents. Derges is licensed as an assistant physician — not a physician — and operates Ozark Valley Medical clinics in Branson, Ozark, and Springfield. She was first elected to serve as a Republican state representative for HD 140 in 2020. 

The indictment, unsealed Monday, alleged Derges wrote electronic prescriptions for oxycodone and Adderall and transmitted the drugs over the internet without having conducted in-person medical evaluations. 

Derges also allegedly obtained amniotic fluid and falsely claimed it contained “mesenchymal stem cells” during a seminar and in personal consultations. The amniotic fluid did not, however, contain any stem cells. Derges allegedly administered the amniotic fluid to patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney disease, and tissue damage, among other ailments. 

The indictment said Derges charged patients more than $191,000 in all for the amniotic fluid. 

Additionally, Derges faces two charges of making false statements to federal agents during the investigation in May 2020 regarding the use of the amniotic fluid and whether it included stem cells. 

She pleaded not guilty and was released on bond Monday. In multiple Facebook posts, which have since been made private, Derges maintained her innocence. She sent an email to Vescovo this week maintaining she would not resign from the statehouse. 

“While Rep. Derges should be afforded the presumption of innocence, she also owes a duty of representation to her constituency which she cannot adequately fulfill under the circumstances,” GOP Rep. Phil Christofanelli said on Twitter. “The honorable course would be for her to resign.”