In a surprise move, Oakland County oncologist Dr. Farid Fata has pleaded guilty to charges in a scheme to bilk Medicare out at least $91 million by prescribing unnecessary treatments and in some cases telling patients who weren’t sick that they had cancer
“It is my choice,” Fata said of his decision to plead guilty. “I knew that the infusions … were medically unnecessary.”
The Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News and other area media are reporting that Fata, 49, pleased guilty to health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to give and get kickbacks – 16 counts in all.
When Fata is sentenced on Feb. 23, 2015, he could face up to 175 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the health-care fraud counts, and a $500,000 fine for money laundering. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said she will seek a life sentence for what she called the most egregious case of health-care fraud she’s ever seen.
“We have seen health care fraud before … but this one really is unique in that he exploited patients,” McQuade said.
» Read the criminal complaint against Dr. Farid Fata.
Fata’s plea comes on the first day of a hearing on motions filed in the trial that was to have begun next month. Fata still has to answer six remaining counts of health-care fraud in a trial scheduled for March 16.
Whistleblower Angela Swantek, a Royal Oak chemotherapy nurse who became suspicious of some of the practices in Fata’s clinic in a 2010 interview and reported him to state health officials, told the Free Press she wasn’t surprised that Fata pleaded guilty to the charges.
“I wondered how his team was going to defend him,” she said. “The charts don’t lie.”
Survivors of two of Fata’s patients told The Detroit News they’re disappointed that that the full story won’t be told in court. Liz Lupo, whose mother died of lung cancer in 2007, and Cynthia Burt, whose sister died in 2011, think Fata’s treatments were responsible for their loved ones’ deaths.
“He’s not being charged with enough,” Lupo said. “He pled guilty to a handful of patients when there were thousands. We wanted to hear the details about how he was allowed to (do this).”
But said she’s glad Fata accepted responsibility and hopes he’ll pay for his crimes with life in prison, but she said the plea deal cheats “the patients and family members (who) are not going to get the answers they seek.”