Jury Convicts State Lawmaker of COVID-19 Fraud Scheme at Springfield Health Care Charity
Also Convicted of Stem Cell Fraud Scheme, Illegally Distributing Prescription Drugs
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Missouri state representative was convicted by a federal trial jury today for a nearly $900,000 COVID-19 fraud scheme, as well as a separate $200,000 fraud scheme in which she made false claims about a fake stem cell treatment marketed through her clinics in southern Missouri, and for illegally providing prescription drugs to clients of those clinics.
Patricia “Tricia” Ashton Derges, 64, of Nixa, Missouri, was found guilty of 10 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of distributing drugs over the internet without a valid prescription, and two counts of making false statements to a federal law enforcement agent.
Derges was elected in November 2020 as a Missouri state representative in District 140 (Christian County). Derges, who is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician, operates three for-profit Ozark Valley Medical Clinic locations in Springfield, Ozark, and Branson, Missouri. Derges also operates the non-profit corporation Lift Up Someone Today, Inc., with a medical and dental clinic in Springfield.
Among the charges Derges was convicted for was one under the Controlled Substances Act. She was convicted of 10 counts of distributing oxycodone and Adderall over the internet without valid prescriptions. The indictment alleges that Derges, without conducting in-person medical evaluations of the patients, wrote electronic prescriptions for oxycodone and Adderall for patients and transmitted them to pharmacies over the internet.
Because none of the assistant physicians whom Derges employed at Ozark Valley Medical Clinic could prescribe Schedule II controlled substances, it was the standard practice of the assistant physicians to see a patient and later communicate to Derges the controlled substances they wanted her to prescribe to their patients. Derges, without conducting an in-person medical evaluation of the patients as required by federal law, wrote electronic prescriptions for the patients and transmitted the prescriptions over the internet to pharmacies.
Derges is not a physician but is licensed as an assistant physician. An assistant physician is a mid-level medical professional in the state of Missouri. Under Missouri law, medical school graduates who have not been accepted into a residency program but have passed Step 1 and Step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination may apply to become an assistant physician. State law mandates that assistant physicians practice pursuant to a collaborative practice arrangement with a licensed physician.
Derges obtained her medical degree from the Caribbean Medical University of Curacao in May 2014 but was not accepted into a post-graduate residency program. Derges was licensed as an assistant physician by the state of Missouri on Sept. 8, 2017.
Following the presentation of evidence, the jury in the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo., deliberated for about six hours over two days before returning guilty verdicts on all counts to U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes, ending a trial that began Monday, June 13.
Under federal statutes, Derges is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole on each of the 10 wire fraud counts and on each of the 10 drug distribution counts, and a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole on each of the two false statements counts. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.