Federal authorities have arrested Republican congresswoman Patricia Ashton Derges, of Missouri, on charges of running a fraud scheme in three clinics and prescribing a fake stem cell treatment, claiming it cures covid-19, prosecutors said.
According to court documents, Derges is accused of selling what she falsely advertised as a stem cell treatment. Prosecutors cite one instance when Derges wrote a Facebook post about her clinic’s treatment as an “amazing treatment (that) stands to provide a potential cure for Covid-19 patients that is safe and natural.”
However, Derges actually administered a substance called “amniotic fluid allograft” to patients, according to authorities. It’s a substance the University of Utah told investigators it sold to her for about $244 for 1 milliliter, according to the indictment. Authorities claim Derges knew the product did not contain any cells, including stem cells. In total, Derges’ patients paid her approximately $191,815.00 for amniotic fluid that did not contain stem cells, the documents say. She charged her patients $950 to $1,450 per milliliter, according to court documents.
Derges, a newly elected Missouri state representative, has pleaded not guilty, according to her attorney, Stacey Bilyeu, who stressed she is “presumed innocent until proven guilty,” CNN reports. Bilyeu added that Derges has no plans to step back from any of her jobs as the case plays out in court.
The Missouri Republican faces eight wire fraud charges stemming from the sale of supposed stem cell treatments and two charges of lying to investigators about those treatments. Additionally, prosecutors charged Derges with 10 counts of prescribing medication to patients she wasn’t treating directly. These prescriptions, however, were not related to the fake stem cell treatments.