Derges was accused of giving patients fake stem cell treatment
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State Rep. Tricia Derges was indicted by a federal grand jury Monday for an alleged wire fraud scheme and illegally providing prescription drugs to clients at her health clinics.
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.
She pleaded not guilty and was released on bond.
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.
“This defendant abused her privileged position to enrich herself through deception,” U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison said in a statement. “The indictment alleges she lied to her patients and she lied to federal agents. As an elected official and a health care provider, she deserves to be held to a high standard. This grand jury indictment exposes her deception and holds her accountable for her actions.”
In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri said the investigation began when Derges appeared on a Springfield television show in April 2020 about the potential use of stem cells to combat COVID-19 and made “false or misleading statements.”
“Ms. Derges knowingly provided false information and made false claims about the medical treatment she was providing, and these falsehoods may have significant consequences for the patients she served,” Curt L. Muller, the special agent in charge for the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said. “We will continue to hold accountable individuals who abuse their positions of power to prey on unsuspecting individuals.”
Derges has made multiple public Facebook posts maintaining her innocence. In one Monday afternoon, she said: “I am here, holding my head up because that’s what you do when you have done NOTHING. Never before have I seen anything like this. This is what comes after years of doing nothing but help people. Keep prayers coming.”
Derges did not respond to an emailed request for comment, but her Springfield attorney, Stacie Bilyeu, said the representative’s social media was “flooded with people saying nasty things” after the press conference.
Derges “has entered her plea of not guilty to each and every allegation against her,” Bilyeu told The Missouri Times. “These are just allegations. She is an American citizen and has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Derges obtained her medical degree from the Caribbean Medical University of Curacao in 2014 but did not attend a post-graduate residency program, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She obtained her assistant physician license in Missouri in 2017.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General.
A freshman lawmaker, Derges has filed multiple bills this year pertaining to assistant physicians. HB 550 would allow an assistant physician to become a licensed general practitioner if he or she has completed 60 months of post-graduate, full-time active collaborative practice and Step 3 of the Medical Licensing Examination. HB 916 would give assistant physicians the ability to prescribe Schedule II amphetamine or methylphenidate.
According to her House biography, Derges founded an international marketing company for which she was recognized by the Missouri Small Business Association and former President George W. Bush.
She also founded “Lift Up Someone Today,” a nonprofit helping low income, homeless individuals, and veterans with medical, mental health, and dental needs.
Derges represents HD 140 which includes Christian County.
A representative for House Speaker Rob Vescovo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story has been updated to include comments from Stacie Bilyeu, the attorney for Rep. Derges.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.