A state representative under federal indictment for medical fraud falsely claimed she had a faculty appointment at the University of Missouri when she applied for a medical license in Florida.
State Rep. Tricia Derges, R-Nixa, facing 20 federal felony charges under an indictment unsealed on Feb. 1, has been licensed in Missouri as an assistant physician since 2017.
On Oct. 22, 2019, Derges was granted what Florida calls a Temporary Certificate for Practice in Areas of Critical Need as a medical doctor. The program allows medical professionals from other states to practice in designated areas and clinics where people face barriers to care.
Her practitioner profile at the Florida Department of Health website, under the tab for Academic Appointments, includes the following: University of Missouri, Columbia School.
That is not supported by the university’s records, spokesman Christian Basi wrote in an email.
“We have no record of her in the MU employee database, nor as having a faculty appointment in the School of Medicine, nor as an employee of MU Health Care,” Basi wrote.
Applicants are required to provide information on any faculty appointments, but a document describing what should be in the Florida provider profile states that the department does not independently verify information about faculty posts.
Each practitioner is responsible for the information on their profile, the department’s communications office stated in an email.
“Failure to maintain accurate information on the profile would subject the licensee to disciplinary action by the appropriate board,” the communications office stated.
Derges did not respond to emails sent to her personal and official accounts seeking an interview. Her attorney, Stacie Bilyeu, did not respond to a message left on her cell phone.
Derges is charged with eight counts of medical fraud for allegedly using sterile amniotic fluid in what she told patients were stem cell treatments. The indictment lists eight instances of patients who had paid Derges from $1,905 to $6,500 for treatments and accuses her of reaping $191,815 in total for such treatments.
She is also charged with 12 counts of improperly authorizing prescriptions of oxycodone and Adderall for patients she did not personally examine. Two counts charge her with lying to FBI agents during the investigation.
A trial is scheduled to begin May 3.
Derges, who is about one month into her first term, has filed nine bills, none of which have been referred to committees.
Four of the bills she filed deal with medical licensing in ways that could create conditions that would allow her to convert her license as an assistant physician to physician.
The distinction is important because an assistant physician can only practice under an agreement with a collaborating physician. And the license in Florida could be one of the ways that she could have upgraded her license.
Florida does not use the same licensing terms as Missouri. In Florida, she is an “Area of Critical Need Medical Doctor.”
A bill she filed on license reciprocity removes a requirement that a practitioner licensed in another state and applying for a Missouri license only be allowed to provide services at the same level as the other state.
It also includes a provision directing state licensing boards to waive education, experience and testing requirements for licensed health care providers from other states.
Derges received her medical training at the Caribbean Medical University in the Netherland Antilles. It is not accredited for training physicians by any United States organization and Derges was unable to find a place for post-graduate residency.
Without a residency, she was unable to take the third of three national exams required by Missouri to obtain a license as a physician.
There is no requirement that someone holding the temporary certificate actually provide medical care in Florida, that state’s health department communications office stated.
“Owning a license to practice medicine in Florida does not require that physician to work a certain amount of time in the state,” the email stated.
In her licensing profile, Derges gave her practice address as the Crossroads Center Medical and Dental Clinic in Valparaiso. The clinic declined to provide information about Derges, including whether she had ever provided care at the clinic, citing a policy of confidentiality covering all volunteer providers.
The clinic would not confirm whether she had ever provided care at the clinic.
In emails to Vescovo obtained under a Sunshine Law request, Derges expressed surprise at losing her committee seats, dismissed Vescovo’s suggestion that by resigning she would have time to work on her defense and claimed she had explained everything to House Majority Leader Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, and had his support.
“I have been up front with this entire thing with Dean since I learned about it last summer,” Derges wrote to Vescovo the evening after she was indicted and lost her committee posts.
She expressed disappointment in the action.
“I do not understand why the House isn’t standing by me as I had been told by Dean when I called him two weeks ago to let him know they had suddenly changed their mind,” she wrote.
Before publicly calling for her to resign, Vescovo sent Derges an email explaining why he wanted her to resign.
“The allegations against you are very serious and will require a lot of your attention in the coming months as you prepare your defense,” Vescovo wrote. “I believe that it is in your best interest to devote your time and attention to your family and your legal case at this time.”
Derges responded by saying her attorney, Stacy Bilyeu, was handling her legal issues and she would “continue to give 150%” to her duties as a legislator.
Derges has not been present for a House roll call since her indictment. She has not responded to a Sunshine Law request from the Independent addressed to her on Feb. 5. Each House member is responsible for maintaining the records of their office and making them available under the Sunshine Law.
In her response to Vescovo, Derges again referred to Plocher and the support he had provided, after reminding Vescovo that she is innocent until proven guilty.
“He has told me many time to stand strong, do not bend, do not give in, do not let fear and intimidation break you – you can do this – keep your faith strong- we are here to support you,” Derges wrote. “He has been wonderful through all of this.”
Plocher declined requests for an interview.
In a statement, Plocher said his expressions of support for Derges came before the indictment revealed facts she had not provided.
“The email from Tricia Derges was misleading and distorted my support for her regarding her personal criminal matter because it was before I knew all the facts,” he said. “I have not had contact with Tricia Derges since the indictment was filed. I believe in the long-standing principle of due process, however, I stand firmly with Speaker Vescovo’s call for her to resign.”
This story was published initially by the Missouri Independent, an affiliate of the States Newsroom that includes the Florida Phoenix.