A Missouri lawmaker indicted earlier this year for allegedly selling fake stem-cell treatments and fraudulently using federal pandemic relief funds has had her trial pushed back until June 2022.
That means state Rep. Patricia Derges, R-Nixa, will serve yet another legislative session in exile after her party removed her from committee assignments and kicked her out of the GOP caucus after her 20-count federal indictment in February.
Derges has denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign her legislative seat.
Her trial was supposed to begin on Monday. But her attorney asked the court for a delay because a witness for the prosecution suffered a stroke that prevented her from being able to testify.
The defense needs to be able to “vigorously cross-examine the subject witness,” Derges’ attorney, Al Watkins, wrote in a motion asking for the delay. The motion noted that prosecutors were supportive of pushing the trial date back.
U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge David Rush agreed, moving the jury trial to June 6, 2022.
Derges caught the attention of federal investigators when she did television interviews claiming she was working with the University of Utah on an FDA-approved research project to determine if stem cells were effective against COVID-19
Federal prosecutors initially charged Derges in February for medical fraud, writing illegal prescriptions and lying to investigators. She was alleged to have obtained sterile fluid, which contained no stem cells, from the University of Utah at a cost of $250 per milliliter, then administering it to patients, telling them it contained stem cells and charging $950 to $1,450 per milliliter.
The investigation identified eight patients who had paid Derges from $1,905 to $6,500 for stem cell treatments and $191,815 in total for such treatments.
In March, she was faced with additional charges for allegedly taking $300,000 in federal aid intended for her nonprofit clinic and using it instead to pay for tests that patients at her for-profit clinic had already paid for.
During a court appearance earlier this year, Derges pled not guilty to 23 charges. She has maintained her innocence from the beginning.
Derges was elected to a two-year term representing Christian County in the Missouri House last year. She is licensed in the state as an assistant physician, receiving her medical training at the Caribbean Medical University in the Netherland Antilles.
During her first legislative session, she filed 10 bills — four of which deal with medical licensing in ways that could create conditions that would allow her to convert her license as an assistant physician to physician.
None of her bills gained traction after she was stripped of her committee assignments, kicked out of the Republican caucus and asked to resign by House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold.
She was also moved out of her Missouri Capitol office into a tiny, windowless room, not much larger than a closet.
The Missouri General Assembly will return to Jefferson City in September to consider whether to override any of Gov. Mike Parson’s vetoes. Unless the governor convenes a special session, lawmakers will reconvene in January for the 2022 legislative session.
This article by Jason Hancock is published by permission of The Missouri Independent.