GOP Missouri lawmaker indicted on fraud refuses to resign

Dr. Tricia Derges listens to a patient’s chest at the Lift Up Springfield medical clinic in Springfield, Mo. Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. A federal grand jury has indicted the Missouri state legislator on fraud charges after she falsely promoted a treatment she was selling at medical clinics as containing stem cells that could treat various disease including COVID-19. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri state lawmaker refused to resign after being indicted on federal fraud charges for falsely claiming a treatment she sold contained stem cells that could help with COVID-19 and other illnesses.

Rep. Tricia Derges in an email to the House speaker this week wrote that her “innocence will prevail.” The Republican from the southeastern Missouri city of Nixa said her lawyer “has this handled.”

“This is very much about innocence. I have done absolutely nothing,” Derges wrote in a Wednesday email to the speaker. “You are certainly aware of how a grand jury works. I believe the famous saying ‘they can (indict) a ham sandwich’ has certainly been demonstrated and used in my case.”

Fellow Republican House Speaker Rob Vescovo stripped Derges of all her committee assignments on Monday, when a 20-count indictmentagainst her was unsealed.

The federal indictment by a grand jury also accuses the 63-year-old of illegally providing prescription drugs to clients and making false statements to federal agents investigating the case.

Vescovo on Wednesday asked Derges to step down.

“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,” Vescovo wrote to her. “I care deeply about the integrity of this body, but I care more about the health and well-being of our members.”

Derges told Vescovo that she’ll continue representing her constituents’ by voting even though she no longer serves on committees.

Derges also has not responded to phone and email messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment. She was released on her own recognizance after making an initial court appearance Monday during which she pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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