A Missouri lawmaker was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that she falsely advertised amniotic fluid as a stem cell treatment and “a potential cure for COVID-19 patients.”
State Rep. Patricia “Tricia” Ashton Derges (R) was indicted by a federal grand jury on 20 counts, including wire fraud, the Justice Department announced Monday. The indictment was unsealed after Derges made an initial court appearance, the DOJ said.
Derges, a licensed assistant physician, was elected to the Missouri statehouse in November. But for months before that election, she’s alleged to have advertised a phony “stem cell” treatment that didn’t contain any stem cells.
“This amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural,” Derges allegedly wrote in a Facebook post in April. “All of the components of the God given Amniotic Fluid: Mesenchymal Stem Cells (progenitor cells which are baby stem cells: can become any tissue they want); cytokines, exosomes, chemokines, hyaluronic acid, growth factors and over 800 proteins work together to create a human being: the emphasis on the lungs.”
In fact, according to the indictment, the “stem cell” treatment the Missouri Republican was advertising was acellular amniotic fluid purchased from the University of Utah. The fluid “did not contain any cells, including stem cells,” the indictment alleged.
Derges allegedly told patients suffering everything from hip pain to erectile dysfunction that the amniotic fluid contained stem cells.
In all, patients paid Derges roughly $191,815 for amniotic fluid that did not contain stem cells, the indictment alleged. It cited five patients who Derges allegedly charged between $950.00 and $6,500 for treatments the patients believed contained stem cells.
The Justice Department noted that the investigation into Derges began as a result of false or misleading statements she made in an April 2020 television interview “regarding her potential use of stem cells to treat COVID-19.”
But the counts against the lawmaker included a slew of other allegations as well, including that Derges wrote prescriptions for her coworkers’ patients and that she lied to federal investigators.
“We place our hope and our trust in health care providers and government officials,” said the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kansas City office, Timothy Langan. “The defendant’s actions are not only a betrayal of that trust, but her actions erode the very core of our confidence in a system we rely on.”