State Watch

Missouri state rep resigns after federal conviction for COVID-19 fraud scheme

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A Missouri state lawmaker resigned on Friday after a jury found her guilty on 22 counts for fraudulently accepting hundreds of thousands of pandemic-era federal stimulus dollars and other offenses.

Missouri state Rep. Tricia Derges (R) was convicted on Tuesday after she applied for nearly $900,000 in CARES Act funds for what she said were COVID-19 testing costs incurred by nonprofit Lift Up, but the organization never provided any testing services, according to a press release from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Derges was also found guilty on Tuesday in separate schemes in which she fraudulently marketed a stem cell treatment and illegally prescribed drugs to patients.

“It has truly been an honor to serve the citizens of the 140th District,” Derges wrote in her resignation letter, where she made no mention of the charges. “They are some of the finest people I have ever met. To be a part of the process that helped bring positive change to our community and to assist with many of the personal struggles of my constituents is something I will forever treasure.”

The DOJ said Lift Up’s medical clinic closed from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 until June that year, and Derges supported her funding claim by providing COVID-19 test receipts for her for-profit Ozark Valley Medical Clinic. 

The clinic had already charged clients $167 per test, according to the DOJ, but a county commission paid Derges’s nonprofit $296,574 in CARES Act funds based on the fraudulent request. Derges then transferred the funds to her for-profit clinic.

“She violated her position of trust to selfishly enrich herself at the expense of others,” said U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore in a statement. “But a jury of her peers, in a unanimous verdict, saw through her smokescreen of excuses and ridiculous claims, and now she will be held accountable for her criminal behavior.”

Derges was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud in the scheme.

The jury convicted Derges on another seven counts of wire fraud for charging patients a combined amount of nearly $200,000 for what she fraudulently marketed as a stem cell treatment at her for-profit clinic. The jury additionally found her guilty on two counts of making false statements for telling federal agents the treatment contained stem cells when she knew it did not, in addition to other untrue information.

The jury also found Derges guilty of 10 counts of illegally drugs over the internet without a valid prescription. The DOJ said Derges, a licensed assistant physician, wrote electronic prescriptions for Oxycodone and Adderall without conducting in-person medical evaluations of the patients.

Derges now awaits sentencing, with the charges she was convicted on carrying a maximum combined sentence of 410 years in prison.

Tags COVID-19 Department of Justice DOJ fraud Missouri Missouri Tricia Derges Tricia Derges
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