DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - An Oakland County cancer specialist has pleaded guilty to 16 federal charges and admits he gave patients unneeded treatments before billing Medicare and other insurers.
A tearful Dr. Farid Fata made the pleas Tuesday in U.S. District Court, where he was scheduled to go on trial next month. There was no plea deal with the U.S. Justice Department.
Fata, 49, told Judge Paul Borman that he ordered treatments for patients knowing that they were unnecessary and then submitted insurance claims.
He pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy and two counts of money laundering.
"This defendant not only stole funds from taxpayer-funded insurance programs, but he also deliberately administered unnecessary chemotherapy so that he could bill insurers for expensive chemotherapy treatments," said U.S. Attorney McQuade, in a statement. "His exploitation of patients for his own profit caused victims to suffer physically and emotionally."
A resident of Oakland Township, Fata owned and operated Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers (MHO), which had offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy and Oak Park.
U.S. prosecutors said Fata gave one of his patients 155 chemo treatments over two-and-a-half years — even though the patient never had cancer. Other patients, they say, were pumped with unnecessary blood therapy and iron treatments.
Liz Lupo of Oakland Township said her mother Marianne was among those who were diagnosed with cancer by Fata and treated with chemotherapy before she died seven years ago.
"I didn't think he would plead," Lupo told WWJ's Jon Hewett at the courthouse Tuesday. "I thought he was too full of himself, too conceited."
Not all victims' family members are satisfied, including Karen Baldwin of White Lake whose husband Harrison was treated for a diagnosis of brain cancer.
Baldwin does not believe this plea will bring about justice in the case.
"To me true justice would be that Fata drops dead, and I go home and my husband's at the table saying, 'What's for dinner? I'm hungry.'"
Prior to Tuesday's plea, Fata had denied any wrongdoing.
"At a time when they are most vulnerable and fearful, cancer patients put their lives in the hands of doctors and endure risky treatments at their recommendation," said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. "Dr. Fata today admitted he put greed before the health and safety of his patients, putting them through unnecessary chemotherapy and other treatments just so that he could collect additional millions from Medicare. The mere thought of what he did is chilling."
Fata is a native of Lebanon. He has been behind bars for just over a year on a $9 million bond.
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