Missouri lawmaker charged with selling fake Covid stem cell treatments

‘The defendant abused her privileged position to enrich herself through deception,’ says US attorney Tim Garrison

James Crump@thejamescrump
Wednesday 03 February 2021 14:28
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A newly elected Missouri state representative has been charged with allegedly administering treatments for Covid-19 that she falsely claimed contained stem cells.

Patricia Ashton Derges, 63, was charged by a federal grand jury in a 20-count indictment unsealed on Monday, which alleged that she administered the fake treatments to clients at the Ozark Valley Medical Clinic.

The clinic offered its patients amniotic fluid that it claimed included stem cells, according to the indictment. The Independent has contacted the clinic for comment.

Ms Derges, an assistant physician, allegedly gave the treatment to patients with the promise that it would help multiple health problems including kidney disease and erectile dysfunction.

Patients paid Ms Derges around $191,000 (£168,319) in total for the treatments, and the 63-year-old even administered it to herself, the indictment claims.

An investigation was launched into Ms Derges in April 2020, after she claimed on a Springfield television station that stem cells could be used to treat coronavirus.

She also claimed in a Facebook post that her clinics’ “amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for Covid-19 patients that is safe and natural.”

Ms Derges self-surrendered on Monday and was later released from custody following her initial appearance in federal court.

The 63-year-old, a Republican, was elected in November 2020 to the Missouri House on a two-year term. The Independent has contacted Ms Derges’ government email for comment.

In a statement on Monday, US attorney Tim Garrison said that “the defendant abused her privileged position to enrich herself through deception.

“The indictment alleges she lied to her patients and she lied to federal agents. As an elected official and a healthcare provider, she deserves to be held to a high standard.”

Ms Derges faces eight charges of wire fraud for charging the patients for the treatment, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of a $250,000 (£220,351) fine and 20 years in prison.

The state representative also faces two charges for making “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent” statements about the treatment to federal investigators. Each count has a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

She faces another 10 counts of distribution by means of the internet without a valid prescription, each carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, for prescribing Oxycodone and Adderall online without a proper medical evaluation.

Ms Derges’ attorney, Stacie Calhoun Bilyeu, told the Kansas City Star on Monday: “Dr Derges, despite what it looked like yesterday, has not been found guilty or convicted of anything,” and confirmed that the representative pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

In a Facebook post on Monday night seen by NBC News, Ms Derges referenced the bible and wrote: “Lies and twisted words mean nothing. Truth and righteousness mean everything.

“I can stand before God and know that He will smile at me. Goliath can't take that away as much as he tries.”

Since the start of the pandemic, Missouri has recorded more than 496,000 coronavirus cases and at least 7,410 deaths.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are now more than 26.4 million people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the US. The death toll has reached 446,885.

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