State Representative Dr. Tricia Derges Indicted by Federal Authorities

State Representative Tricia Derges has been charged with 20 counts by federal prosecutors.

According to a recently unsealed document, Dr. Derges is facing 8 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of distribution of drugs by means of the internet without a valid prescription, and 2 counts of making false statements.

The wire fraud charges are connected to alleged claims made by Derges about “stem cells” involved in her medical practice, Ozark Valley Medical Clinic. Derges said that OVMC was a “leader in…regenerative medicine” including “stem cells.”

The court document says Dr. Derges held seminars called a “Stem Cell Educational Seminar.” She said that the amniotic fluid she used in her stem cell practice was a “stem cell shot” that contained “mesenchymal stem cells.” Derges allegedly used the amniotic fluid to treat tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”), Lyme Disease, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence.

The amniotic fluid used by Derges did not actually contain stem cells. The indictment states that Derges was told by the University of Utah, where she obtained her amniotic fluid, that it did not contain stem cells.

The document says an email exchange on March 30, 2019, a University of Utah told Derges there were no stem cells in the fluid. Several instances of Derges promoting stem cells in the fluid are cited including this claim posted on Facebook on April 11, 2020:

“This amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural[.] All of the components of the God given Amniotic Fluid: Mesenchymal Stem Cells (progenitor cells which are baby stem cells: can become any tissue they want); cytokines, exosomes, chemokines, hyaluronic acid, growth factors and over 800 proteins work together to create a human being: the emphasis on the lungs.”

According to the investigators, Derges paid $244 for a milliliter and $438 for two milliliters of amniotic fluid allograft while charging patients $950 to $1,450 per milliliter.

“In total, Derges’s patients paid her approximately $191,815 for amniotic fluid that did not contain stem cells,” the court document reads.

The charges say that Dr. Derges also distributed oxycodone and adderall via the internet without a valid prescription. Derges allegedly prescribed the prescriptions without conducting in-person evaluations of the patient.

The false statement charges are related to accusations Derges told federal agents that the amniotic fluid allograft she used contained stem cells.

Federal prosecutors pointed out at a press conference that Derges is not a “physician, but an assistant physician”:

Derges is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician. An assistant physician is a mid-level medical professional in the state of Missouri. Under Missouri law, medical school graduates who have not been accepted into a residency program but have passed Step 1 and Step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination may apply to become an assistant physician. State law mandates that assistant physicians practice pursuant to a collaborative practice arrangement with a licensed physician.

Derges obtained her medical degree from the Caribbean Medical University of Curacao in May 2014 but was not accepted into a post-graduate residency program. Derges was licensed as an assistant physician by the state of Missouri on Sept. 8, 2017.

Dr. Derges attorney, Stacie Bilyeu, told Ozarks Independent that her client has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and wanted to stress that the indictment does not mean she is guilty of any crime.

“These are mere allegations,” Bilyeu said. “Dr. Derges is presumed innocent until and if proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that has not happened.”

Derges represents the 140th District in the Missouri House, covering Christian County, roughly along and east of Highway 65.

She succeeded former State Representative Lynn Morris in January after running unopposed in the General Election.

She defeated Jeff Parnell, Jason Shaffer, and Jamie Ray Gragg to win the Republican primary in August, 2020.

This is a breaking story and we will release more information as it becomes available.

Here is the indictment against Dr. Derges:

Tricia-Derges-Case

Dr. Derges attorney, Stacie Bilyeu, told Ozarks Independent that her client has pleaded not guilty to all counts, and wanted to stress that the indictment does not mean she is guilty of any crime.

“These are mere allegations,” Bilyeu said. “Dr. Derges is presumed innocent until and if proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that has not happened.”

The news release from the Office of the United States Attorney Western District of Missouri is posted below:

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – An elected Missouri state representative has been indicted by a federal grand jury for a fraud scheme in which she made false claims about a supposed stem cell treatment marketed through her clinics in southern Missouri, and for illegally providing prescription drugs to clients of those clinics.

“This defendant abused her privileged position to enrich herself through deception,” said U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison. “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.”

Patricia “Tricia” Ashton Derges, 63, of Nixa, Missouri, was charged in a 20-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo. The indictment was unsealed and made public today following Derges’s self-surrender and initial court appearance.

This investigation began as a result of false or misleading statements made by Derges in April 2020 to a Springfield television station regarding her potential use of stem cells to treat COVID-19. Derges was elected in November 2020 as a Missouri state representative in District 140 (Christian County). Derges, who is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician, operates three Ozark Valley Medical Clinic locations in Springfield, Ozark, and Branson, Mo.

“We place our hope and our trust in health care providers and government officials,” said Timothy Langan, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Kansas City. “The defendant’s actions are not only a betrayal of that trust, but her actions erode the very core of our confidence in a system we rely on. Derges vowed to do no harm as a health care professional and was elected to serve the people, not deceive them. She used her position for personal gain and damaged the public’s trust.”

“Medical professionals who knowingly abuse their power by prescribing medications, without ensuring they are for legitimate medical purposes, take advantage of the public’s trust,” said Inez Davis, St. Louis Division Diversion Program Manager for the Drug Enforcement Administration. “With the support of our enforcement partners, DEA will investigate to the maximum extent of our ability to ensure these individuals are prevented from risking lives within our communities.”

“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,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “We will continue to hold accountable individuals who abuse their positions of power to prey on unsuspecting individuals.”

Wire Fraud Scheme

The federal indictment charges Derges with eight counts of wire fraud related to five specific victims (identified by their initials).These five victims were among those who lost a total of nearly $200,000 in the fraud scheme, which lasted from December 2018 to May 2020.

During this time, Derges exclusively obtained amniotic fluid, which she marketed under the name Regenerative Biologics, from the University of Utah. Derges advertised Ozark Valley Medical Clinic as a “Leader in … Regenerative Medicine,” including stem cells, and marketed her “stem cell” practice through seminars, media interviews, and social media. The federal indictment cites an August 2019 seminar in which Derges told her audience that the amniotic fluid she used in her stem cell practice was a “stem cell shot” and that it contained “mesenchymal stem cells.” According to the indictment, Derges made similar claims in personal consultations.

In fact, however, the amniotic fluid Derges administered to her patients did not contain mesenchymal stem cells, or any other stem cells. The amniotic fluid she obtained from the University of Utah was a sterile filtered amniotic fluid allograft (a tissue graft comprised of human amniotic membrane and amniotic fluid components derived from placental tissue). The amniotic fluid allograft was “acellular,” meaning it did not contain any cells, including stem cells.

Despite being told that the University of Utah’s amniotic fluid allograft was “acellular” and did not contain mesenchymal stem cells, Derges allegedly continued to tell her patients and the public that the amniotic fluid allograft contained stem cells.

Derges administered amniotic fluid, which she falsely claimed contained stem cells, to patients who suffered from, among other things, tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Lyme disease, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence. In an April 11, 2020, Facebook post Derges wrote of amniotic fluid allograft: “This amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural.”

The University of Utah sold its amniotic fluid allograft to Derges for approximately $244 per milliliter and $438 for two milliliters. Derges charged her patients $950 to $1,450 per milliliter. In total, Derges’s patients paid her approximately $191,815 for amniotic fluid that did not contain stem cells.

The Controlled Substances Act

The federal indictment charges Derges with 10 counts of distributing Oxycodone and Adderall over the internet without valid prescriptions.

The indictment alleges that Derges, without conducting in-person medical evaluations of the patients, wrote electronic prescriptions for Oxycodone and Adderall for patients and transmitted them to pharmacies over the internet.

Because none of the assistant physicians whom Derges employed at Ozark Valley Medical Clinic could prescribe Schedule II controlled substances, the indictment says, it was the standard practice of the assistant physicians to see a patient and later communicate to Derges the controlled substances they wanted her to prescribe to their patients. Derges, allegedly without conducting an in-person medical evaluation of the patients, wrote electronic prescriptions for the patients and transmitted the prescriptions over the internet to pharmacies.

False Statements

The federal indictment charges Derges with two counts of making false statements to federal agents investigating this case in May 2020.

Derges allegedly told agents that the amniotic fluid allograft that she used in her practice contained mesenchymal stem cells, which she knew was false. Derges also allegedly told federal agents that she had not treated a patient for urinary incontinence with amniotic fluid allograft, which she knew was false.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

Assistant Physician

Derges is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician. An assistant physician is a mid-level medical professional in the state of Missouri. Under Missouri law, medical school graduates who have not been accepted into a residency program but have passed Step 1 and Step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination may apply to become an assistant physician. State law mandates that assistant physicians practice pursuant to a collaborative practice arrangement with a licensed physician.

Derges obtained her medical degree from the Caribbean Medical University of Curacao in May 2014 but was not accepted into a post-graduate residency program. Derges was licensed as an assistant physician by the state of Missouri on Sept. 8, 2017.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Kempf. It was investigated by the FBI, Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the DEA.

This is a breaking story and we will update as more information is available.

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