Medicare fraud is pervasive in Detroit and elsewhere in the country. The U.S. Attorney's Office here is constantly prosecuting cases, some involving some very big amounts of money.
But no case in recent times has garnered more attention in Detroit than the Medicare fraud scandal involving oncologist/hematologist Dr. Farid Fata of Oakland County, who was not only accused of bilking Medicare of tens of millions of dollars, but of also misdiagnosing patients, telling them they had cancer when they didn't, and of giving unnecessary chemotherapy to people, some of whom didn't even have cancer or couldn't have possibly benefited at the stage of cancer they were in.
The case was simply a scary reminder that someone in a position of authority and trust can take advantage of people in their most vulnerable state.
On Tuesday, Dr. Fata, 49, of Oakland Township, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to several counts of health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Specifically, Fata pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks and two counts of money laundering. Sentencing is set for Feb. 23 where he could face some serious prison time and fines.
"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,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division said in a statement.
“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. Thanks to the quick action of our partners, he was arrested and has now admitted his guilt.”
Fata operated a cancer treatment clinic, Michigan Hematology Oncology, which had offices in Rochester Hills, Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy and Oak Park. He also owned a diagnostic testing facility, United Diagnostics PLLC, in Rochester Hills.
Authorities said that Fata submitted approximately $225 million in claims to Medicare between August 2007 and July 2013. In the end, Medicare paid out more than $91 million to Fata, of which over $48 million was for chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
In court on Tuesday, the doctor read aloud an admission that he submitted false Medicare and insurance claims and ordered “medically unnecessary” treatments, according to the Detroit News.
The plea came just weeks before his Oct. 14 trial.
The News quoted Liz Lupo, the daughter of a former Fata patient who died of lung cancer in 2007. She expressed disappointment in the plea.
“He’s not being charged with enough,” she 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).”