Missouri Republican indicted on fraud charges for selling fake COVID-19 stem cell treatments

Missouri Republican indicted on fraud charges for selling fake COVID-19 stem cell treatments

On Monday, the FBI released a statement about the indictment of an elected Missouri state representative for allegedly being involved in a fraud scheme that involved fake medicine, money, and COVID-19. Patricia “Tricia” Ashton Derges (R-Nixa) is facing a 20-count indictment for her part in promoting and trying to make money off of scared clients looking for a miracle treatment Derges said she could provide to treat COVID-19. As special agent in charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Curt L. Muller says: “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.”

The 63-year-old Derges tipped off the feds in April when she appeared on a Springfield television station claiming to provide a “regenerative” treatment using stem cells at the Ozark Valley Medical Clinic. Derges was not only saying this treatment was an “amazing” cure for COVID-19, she allegedly told the public—anyone she could get her credit card machine in front of—that this treatment was a cure-all. Besides there not being a treatment like the one Derges says she was providing, it turns out that like all snake oil salesfolks, she lied: There weren’t any stem cells in the amniotic fluid she pumped into patients at a $950 to $1,450 per milliliter clip.

According to NBC News, Derges, “an assistant physician who got her medical degree from Caribbean Medical University of Curacao in May 2014,” reportedly administered treatments with her own two hands. How did she get the magic mixture? According to FBI, she got the amniotic fluid from the University of Utah and then added a quadruple and and sometime septuple mark-up, and the promise of treatments to her patients for a wide-ranging set of ailments. According to the indictment, this fraud was being perpetrated well before the global pandemic started; Derges just added COVID-19 to the list of solutions she could provide with her “stem cell” treatments.

Her case is set for a jury trial in late March, though this might be delayed and there is no word yet whether or not any kind of plea deal has been discussed. According to the FBI, between 2018 and 2020, patients were bilked out of $200,000 in the wire-fraud scheme. On top of those charges are also 10 counts “of illegal distribution of controlled substances for prescribing Oxycodone, a narcotic painkiller, and Adderall, a treatment for ADHD, without seeing the patients receiving them.”

Derges, who reportedly promised treatments for “tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Lyme disease, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence,” is also charged with lying to investigators when asked about all of this. Specifically, she reportedly lied about having knowingly given this treatment to someone dealing with urinary incontinence. 

On Monday, Missouri House Speaker Rob Vescovo removed Derges from all her committee assignments.

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