Detroit-area cancer doctor wept uncontrollably during sentencing

DETROIT -- A once renowned cancer doctor was sentenced Friday for subjecting more than 500 patients to brutal treatments they did not need so he could collect millions from insurance.

Dr. Farid Fata

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 175 years. Friday he was sentenced to 45 years.

Dr. Farid Fata wept uncontrollably as he begged a federal judge for mercy. He admitted he had inflicted needless pain and suffering on more than 500 of his patients.

"I stand before you so ashamed of my actions," cried Farid Fata. "I don't know what more I can do to express my sorrow and shame."

From the rows of victims seated a few feet away came the sound of muffled sobs. Fata, who administered almost three thousand unneeded chemo treatments, said he had permitted a sin to enter him in a self-destructive quest for power.

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Prosecutors said it wasn't complicated, his sin was greed.

"Dr. Fata pounced on every opportunity to use a patient's body as a profit center," said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.

It's why he told healthy patients they were sick. It's why he told sick patients they were dying. It's why he told dying patients he was their only hope. It was all done with an eye on how much money he could claim from insurance.

"I do think it was a highly sophisticated fraud. Dr. Fata lied to everyone. He lied to his patients, he lied to his colleagues," McQuade said. "He actually falsified a medical study to support the work that he was doing and the treatments that he was giving. So I do believe it was very sophisticated. He was able to fool many people who were very bright because he was also very bright."

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Monica Flagg, one of Fata's former patients, lives in pain from chemo for non-existent bone marrow cancer. Today's verdict had special meaning for her.

"I don't know long-term what his treatments will do to me emotionally and physically," she said. "I am glad he is behind bars and will never hurt or poison anyone again."

Prosecutors say it is highly likely that 53-year-old Fata will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.