Representative Tricia Derges resigns after $900,000 COVID clinic fraud conviction
A Republican state representative from Missouri resigned days after being found guilty of 22 federal charges, the majority of those offenses related to a $900,000 COVID-19 fraud scheme operated by medical clinics and an organization in nonprofit at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
State Representative Tricia Derges resigned her seat representing Christian County (District 140) in the Missouri House of Representatives on Friday, KOLR reported.
Her resignation came four days after she was convicted on June 28 by a federal trial jury of what prosecutors described as a nearly $900,000 COVID-19 fraud scheme, as well as a scheme separate $200,000 fraud in which she made false statements regarding a fake stem cell. treatment marketed at his southern Missouri clinics and for illegally supplying prescription drugs to clients of those clinics.
The 64-year-old man from Nixa, Mo., was convicted of 10 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of distributing drugs over the internet without a valid prescription and two counts of forgery statements to a federal law enforcement officer, the Justice Department announced earlier last week.
“It’s about an elected official who stole money from the public, an alleged humanitarian who deceived and lied to her patients, and a medical professional who illegally distributed drugs,” U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore said in a statement on Tuesday. “She violated her position of trust to selfishly enrich herself at the expense of others. But a jury of her peers, in a unanimous verdict, saw through her smokescreen of excuses and ridiculous claims, and now she will be held accountable for her criminal behavior.
Despite her biography on the Missouri House of Representatives saying she is “a physician and an entrepreneur,” the DOJ pointed out that Derges “is not a physician but is licensed as a physician assistant.”
It operates three for-profit Ozark Valley Medical Clinic locations in Springfield, Ozark, and Branson, Missouri, as well as the nonprofit Lift Up Someone Today, Inc., with a medical and dental clinic in Springfield, have prosecutors said. His official biography for the Missouri House of Representatives lists the nonprofit as a “medical, dental, and mental health mission clinic that provides care for the homeless, the poor, and veterans,” and that Derges “teaches medical students board review courses for their USMLE licensing exams.”
Regarding the COVID fraud scheme, prosecutors said Derges attempted to receive $900,000 in CARES Act funds. She actually received $296,574 in CARES Act funds for Lift Up, even though Lift Up did not provide any COVID-19 testing services to its patients and in fact closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and remained closed from March to June 2020.
Derges fraudulently claimed that Lift Up had provided COVID-19 testing and sought reimbursement for “Eligible COVID-19 Expenses” that Lift Up had incurred. To support his claim, Derges provided invoices totaling $296,574 from Dynamic DNA for more than 3,000 COVID-19 lab tests.
Derges submitted the Dynamic DNA bills as Lift Up’s expenses, though they were actually for tests performed at Derges’ for-profit medical clinic in Ozark Valley, prosecutors said.
Ozark Valley Medical Center had previously received payment of approximately $517,000 from its customers for these COVID-19 tests. The Ozark Valley Medical Center charged clients, patients, or their patients’ employers approximately $167 per sample for its COVID-19 testing services. Derges hid from Greene County that those COVID-19 tests had already been paid for by other payers.
Prosecutors say Derges also marketed a stem cell treatment that actually used amniotic fluid that didn’t contain any stem cells. She advertised it online as a potential COVID treatment.
Derges administered amniotic fluid, which she said mistakenly contained stem cells, to patients who suffered from, among other things, tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Lyme disease and urinary incontinence. In an April 11, 2020 Facebook post, Derges wrote of amniotic fluid allograft: “This amazing treatment is believed to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural.”
Derges was also convicted of 10 counts of distributing oxycodone and Adderall over the Internet without a valid prescription.