Doc who treated fake cancer gets 45 years

As part of a Medicare and private health insurance fraud scheme, Farid Fata, M.D., falsely diagnosed his patients with cancer in order to provide them with unwarranted and dangerous treatment. Fata administered medically unnecessary infusions or injections to 553 individual patients and submitted $34 million in fraudulent claims before pleading guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud. A federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan sentenced Fata to 45 years in prison for his admission of guilt to prescribing and administering unnecessary aggressive chemotherapy, cancer treatments, intravenous iron, and other infusion therapies to patients in order to increase his billings to Medicare and other insurance companies.

Fata was a licensed medical doctor who owned and operated a cancer treatment clinic, Michigan Hematology Oncology P.C. (MHO). MHO had locations throughout the Detroit area, including Rochester Hills, Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy, and Oak Park. He also owned a diagnostic testing facility, United Diagnostics PLLC, located in Rochester Hills. Fata further admitted to using the proceeds of the health care fraud at his medical practice, MHO, to promote the carrying on of additional health care fraud at United Diagnostics, where he administered unnecessary and expensive positron emission tomography (PET) scans for which he billed a private insurer.

According to U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, “Health care fraud has been a serious problem in Michigan, but no case has been as egregious as the conduct of Dr. Farid Fata. Dr. Fata did not care for patients; he exploited them as commodities. He over-treated, under-treated and outright lied to patients about whether they had cancer so that he could maximize his own profits.”

Callous, heinous, abhorrent, disgusting, diabolical

The members of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which investigated and brought down Fata, had strong words regarding his behavior. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said that, “Dr. Fata callously violated his patients’ trust as he used false cancer diagnoses and unwarranted and dangerous treatments as tools to steal millions of dollars from Medicare, even stooping to profit from the last days of some patients’ lives.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate agreed with Caldwell, saying “Fata’s heinous acts did far worse than defraud government health care programs and breach his professional oath. Fata caused grievous emotional and physical harm, betraying the trust of hundreds of innocent patients by selfishly placing his personal financial gain over the health and welfare of those who entrusted him with their medical care.” HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III said, “It is startling and abhorrent when greed is so potent that it drives a medical professional to recklessly abandon the most basic and important principle of his profession, ‘First, Do No Harm.'”

Similarly, IRS Chief Richard Weber called it, “the most egregious case of fraud and deception that I have seen in my career,” noting that “Dr. Fata not only defrauded the government out of millions of dollars, but he lied to his patients about their health and intentionally put their lives at risk.” Weber continued, “This defendant ‎greedily cared more about his own financial well-being than the lives of his patients. This disgusting and diabolical scheme has hurt hundreds of patients and their families and stolen from them something that no punishment from the court can do to make them whole.”

Sentencing

In addition to 45 years in prison, Fata was ordered to forfeit $17.6 million. A whistleblower from Fata’s office, as well as his victims, are entitled to share in the forfeiture. Assistant Attorney Caldwell said, “While no sentence can restore what was taken from his patients and their families, the sentence imposed ensures that never again will Dr. Fata lay hands on another patient.” Special Agent in Charge Pugh warned other fraudsters, “Today’s sentencing is a clear message that, working closely with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to investigate, charge and prosecute medical professionals who jeopardize the health of patients.”

Fata’s victims, many of whom had hoped he would receive the maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, were disappointed. According to the Detroit Free Press, the court took statements from about 22 victims during the sentencing hearing, including statements from “a healthy adult undergoing chemotherapy and losing nearly all his teeth,” and “a patient diagnosed with lung cancer when he had kidney cancer.” Regarding the sentence, spouses of Fata’s victims said, “It’s not enough,” and “We expected more.”

One man told the Free Press that he is not interested in sharing in the forfeiture. “I don’t want anything back from him,” said Gregory Cadd, whose father received excessive treatment until his death from lung cancer. “If anyone shoves a check in my hand, I’m going to find the nearest charity that I can to give it to in the name of my father.”