Missouri state lawmaker charged with selling fake COVID-19 cure

A newly elected Missouri state representative faces 20 federal charges accusing her of selling fake COVID-19 treatments at the three health clinics she runs, the US Attorney's Office said.
Federal prosecutors allege that Patricia Derges, 63 - a Republican who was elected in November and is an assistant physician by profession - provided patients with a prescription amniotic fluid she falsely claimed contained stem cells that can fight COVID-19, according to a news release.
An assistant physician is a title granted in Missouri to medical school graduates who pass certain tests but are not full-fledged doctors.
"This defendant abused her privileged position to enrich herself through deception," US Attorney Tim Garrison of the Western District of Missouri said Monday in a news conference in Springfield, Missouri.
Derges's attorney, Stacie Bilyeu, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that her client had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
"My client is innocent," Bilyeu said. "She has not had her day in court, she has not been convicted of anything."
A federal grand jury on Monday indicted Derges on eight counts of wire fraud, two counts of making false statements to federal officers and 10 counts of distributing prescription drugs over the internet without a prescription.
Derges operates the Ozark Valley Medical Clinic, which has three locations in southern Missouri, where she sold a fake stem cell cure for COVID-19, for about $950 to $1,450 a dose, the US Attorney's Office said in a release.
Instead of stem cells, she sold what was described as an amniotic fluid allograft under the name "Regenerative Biologics," the release said. Amniotic fluid allograft is a product comprised of human amniotic membrane and amniotic fluid components derived from the placental tissue of consenting mothers at the time of a Cesarean birth.
Derges was arraigned in a federal court in Springfield on Monday and released on her own recognizance, court papers say.
Missouri House Speaker Rob Vescovo, a Republican, removed Derges from all her state committee appointments this week, and has asked Derges to resign from office immediately.
Bilyeu said her client has no plans to resign from office.
A court date has been set for early May.
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