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Detroit-area cancer doctor's victims top 550

DETROIT - More than 500 patients were given unnecessary treatments by a Detroit-area cancer doctor who pleaded guilty to fraud, prosecutors said, putting out the number of victims for the first time.

The government is seeking a 175-year sentence for Dr. Farid Fata, 50, of Oakland County. Prosecutors filed a 100-page sentencing memo ahead of a multiday hearing that starts July 6 in federal court.

Fata suddenly pleaded guilty to fraud last September, admitting he billed insurers for millions of dollars while treating patients with chemotherapy and other methods when they didn't need it. Some didn't even have cancer.

"Fata ... is not comparable to any other crime in this district in the scope and enormity of the fraud and degree of betrayal. In many ways, he is worse than Madoff, in that he wreaked damage on not only his victims' bank accounts but their bodies," the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday, referring to Bernard Madoff of New York, who committed a massive financial scam..

Fata's lawyer will file a separate sentencing memo.

Fata, who had seven clinics in southeastern Michigan, agrees that the government can prove that he was paid at least $17 million by two insurers, Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. But prosecutors said that amount doesn't capture the total value of his fraud, including co-payments by patients and other insurers.

The government said 553 patients have been identified as victims, along with four insurance companies. There were more than 9,000 unnecessary infusions or injections.

"At times, Fata bullied, berated and browbeat patients who dared to question his treatment, telling them they risked death without him or in the case of a patient who could not afford co-pays, 'It's your life or your money,'" prosecutors said.

The government also filed statements from Fata's patients. Maggie Dorsey said she has tics, tremors and pain after undergoing unnecessary chemotherapy.

"I didn't deserve to end up like this even though I am still alive with love & many thanks," she wrote. "Some days when the pain is too great I close my eyes longing for the relief of heaven."

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