SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — An elected Missouri state representative and a licensed assistant physician has been indicted by a federal grand jury for a fraud scheme.
According to local prosecutors, Patricia “Tricia” Ashton Derges, 63, of Nixa, Missouri, made false claims about a supposed stem cell treatment marketed through her clinics. Derges was elected in November 2020 as a Missouri state representative in District 140.
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, Missouri.
Derges is charged in a 20-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield.
“People who hold themselves out for public office and expect to be entrusted with the cares and concerns of the public, should expect to be held to a higher standard,” said U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison. “It’s simply about the fact that patients have a right to know whether the substance their healthcare provuder is injecting into their bodies are, in fact, what their healthcare providers tells them that they are.”
The indictment was unsealed on Monday, Feb.1, following Derges’ initial court appearance.
The investigation began as a result of false or misleading statements made by Derges in an April 2020 interview with Ozarks Tonight regarding her potential stem cells to treat COVID-19.
“She made herself a spectacle, of sorts, by making these really strong claims that she was a researcher in stem cell,” said Garrison. “That she had this research partnership with the University of Utah that caused some of the experts standing behind me to question whether or not that was really the case.”
Garrison explained Derges marketed her stem cell practice through seminars, media interviews, and social media. She 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.”
“Her claims regarding her ability to treat COVID-19 were part of a broader pattern of misleading and deceiving patients and potential patients about treating them with stem cells,” said Garrison. “She was treating them with acellular amniotic fluid. Acellular, meaning fluid containing no cells, stem cells or any other type of cells.”
Derges’ attorney, Stacie Bilyeu, said Derges plead “not guilty” to all charges.
“I think it’s real important for people to remember that she is presumed innocent until, and if, –that’s a big one– if proved guilty of those charges and that has not happened yet,” said Bilyeu. “She is presumed innocent. She is pleading not guilty to everything that the government has alleged.”
The federal indictment charges Derges with eight counts of wire fraud related to five specific victims. 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.
“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.