A federal jury on Tuesday convicted a Republican lawmaker from Nixa on all 22 criminal counts of fraud and for illegally providing prescriptions for oxycodone and Adderall.
Patricia Derges, 64, was found guilty of marketing and treating patients with an ingredient that she claimed contained stem cells — although she knew it did not.
She worked as a licensed assistant physician and was elected to the Missouri House in November 2020.
“This is an elected official who stole money from the public, a purported humanitarian who cheated and lied to her patients, and a medical professional who illegally distributed drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore, in a prepared statement following the verdict.
Moore spoke at a press conference in Springfield Tuesday.
“She violated her position of trust to selfishly enrich herself at the expense of others,” Moore said.
In closing arguments Monday, defense attorney Al Watkins argued that Derges was only trying to do good in the community and there was never an overarching scheme to defraud.
“The existence or non-existence of stem cells in amniotic fluid is immaterial,” Watkins said to jurors, who apparently disagreed.
She persisted after being told no stem cells
Prosecutor Randall D. Eggert countered in his closing remarks.
“Let’s not pretend there were no victims here,” he told jurors.
He said part of the defense argument amounted to this: “Let me go because I do good deeds in the community.”
From December 2018 to May 2020, Derges purchased amniotic fluid from the University of Utah and told patients and potential patients that it contained stem cells — even after the university told her it did not.
She sometimes called the treatment a “stem cell shot.”
The university told Derges the fluid was “acellular,” meaning it had no cells of any kind in it.
Derges used the fluid to treat patients who suffered from, among other things, tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, urinary incontinence and Lyme Disease.
According to court documents, she also used it to treat one man for erectile dysfunction.
Prosecutors said Derges bought the amniotic fluid from the University of Utah for approximately $244 per 1.0 milliliter to $438 for 2.0 milliliters.
She charged patients $950 to $1,450 per 1.0 milliliter while falsely claiming it contained stem cells. She administered it via injection, intravenously and via nebulizer.
Once COVID-19 hit Missouri in March 2020, Derges marketed the fluid as a “potential cure for COVID-19 patients.”
Derges was found guilty on all counts of illegally prescribing the controlled substances oxycodone and Adderall over the internet without personally seeing these patients.
In 2014, Derges obtained a medical degree from the Caribbean University of Curacao but was not accepted into a post-graduate residency program. (Curacao is a small island nation not far from Aruba.)
Derges has operated three for-profit Ozark Valley Medical clinics: 3259 E. Sunshine St., Springfield; 5571 N. 21st St., Ozark; and 2715 West 76 Country Blvd., Branson.
Derges was convicted of seeking reimbursement from federal grant money for the cost of COVID-19 testing in Greene County through her nonprofit, Lift Up Someone Today (Lift Up Springfield).
But her nonprofit never did such testing, although it was reimbursed by Greene County for $296,574 for the laboratory tests.
The testing actually was done at her for-profit clinic in Christian County, a separate legal entity.
At one point, Derges submitted more invoices for reimbursement to Greene County — including and beyond the $296,574, up to $589,143 — for 6,177 COVID-19 tests.
The government alleged that Derges concealed from Greene County that her Ozark Valley Medical Center had already been paid approximately $1 million by clients, patients, or her patients’ employers for these COVID-19 tests.
Jury selection started June 13. Derges will be sentenced at a later date. She was released on Tuesday on her personal recognizance.
After she was indicted in January 2021, Derges was voted out of the Republican caucus in Jefferson City and stripped of her committee assignments. According to state law, now that she is convicted, Derges must forfeit her House seat and is disqualified from running for any state office.