A representative for the state of Missouri has been indicted in a 20 count indictment that she fraudulently administered treatment, including for Covid-19, which falsely claimed to have stem cells.
Patricia Ashton Derges, 63, allegedly gave so-called “regenerative” treatments to clients who came to the Ozark Valley Medical Clinic seeking treatment for various illnesses, an unsealed grand jury indictment said Monday .
The clinic offered its patients amniotic fluid that claimed to have stem cells, but was actually cell-free, without stem cells.
After Derges made false claims on a Springfield TV station in April that stem cells could treat Covid-19, an investigation was opened, the FBI said in a statement on Monday.
And on Facebook, Derges claimed that “the amazing treatment at his clinic is providing a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural,” according to the indictment.
She surrendered to her indictment on Monday and was released after a first appearance in federal court, according to the U.S. prosecutor’s office.
Derges’ actions were a betrayal of the trust instilled in her as a medical professional and government official, said Special Agent in Charge Timothy Langan, of the FBI’s Kansas City office.
“Derges has vowed no harm as a medical professional and was elected to serve the people, not to deceive them,” Langan said. “She used her position for personal gain and damaged public confidence.”
According to the indictment, Derges administered the treatment to patients with the promise that the stem cells would help relieve a range of health problems, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to erectile dysfunction. Derges, a physician assistant who obtained her medical degree from the Caribbean Medical University of Curaçao in May 2014, reportedly administered the treatments herself.
The clinic obtained amniotic fluid through the University of Utah for approximately $ 244.00 per ml. Derges then billed his patients between $ 950 and $ 1,450 per ml of amniotic fluid, according to the indictment, with some paying up to $ 6,500 for what they believed to be stem cell treatments.
Patients paid Derges about $ 191,815 for amniotic fluid that did not contain stem cells, according to the indictment.
Federal prosecutors for the Western District of Missouri said Derges had several email exchanges in 2019 with the Director of Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Utah, who told him the fluid contained no no stem cells.
Derges has been hit with eight counts of wire fraud in connection with the indictment of the patients, who have not been identified, for the allegedly bogus stem cell treatment. Each count carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $ 250,000 and 20 years in prison.
She also faces two charges for making “materially false, fictitious and fraudulent” statements about her amniotic fluid treatments to federal investigators last year, each count of up to five years in prison.
Prosecutors also alleged that Derges prescribed oxycodone and Adderall to people online without a proper medical evaluation. She faces 10 counts of Internet distribution without a valid prescription, each carrying a maximum of 20 years in prison.
“This defendant abused her privileged position to enrich herself through deception,” US Attorney Tim Garrison said in the FBI statement. “The indictment alleges that she lied to her patients and that she lied to federal agents. As an elected official and health care provider, she deserves to be held to a high standard. “
Derges, a Republican, was elected in November for a two-year term after running unopposed for state seat in District 140. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to her address government electronics.
In a Facebook post Monday night, Derges quoted the biblical story of David and Goliath while saying God would be on his side.
“Lies and twisted words mean nothing. Truth and righteousness mean everything, ”the message says. “I can stand before God and know that he will smile at me. Goliath can’t take it off as much as he’s trying.
Stacie Calhoun Bilyeu, a Derges lawyer, did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment. She told the Kansas City Star that she was “limited” in what she could say about it and that her client had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“Dr. Derges, despite what he looked like yesterday, was not found guilty of anything, ”Bilyeu said.