DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A Detroit-area cancer doctor faces up to life in prison for pocketing millions of dollars from insurers while giving unwitting patients excessive and debilitating treatments.
Federal Judge Paul Borman says the guidelines call for a prison sentence anywhere from 30 years to life. He’ll decide Friday after hearing from lawyers and possibly from Dr. Farid Fata, who will get an opportunity to speak.
Prosecutors are seeking 175 years in prison, while Fata, of course, is hoping for much less. The 50-year-old pleaded guilty to fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.
In calculating the sentencing guidelines, the judge pegged the loss to Medicare and other insurers at $17 million, although prosecutors argued it was higher based on out-of-pocket costs absorbed by the more than 500 victims.
Borman this week listened to two medical experts and about two dozen of Fata’s patients, who called the doctor a “monster” and worse. Some victims entered court with canes. Others wore elastic sleeves on their wrists, their joints weakened by years of unnecessary chemotherapy. They said they were betrayed by a soft-spoken doctor who won their trust but left them broke and devastated.
Some of Fata’s patients were allegedly exposed to powerful drugs over and over, despite having no cancer. In an indictment, prosecutors said Fata gave one of his patients 155 chemo treatments over two-and-a-half years — even though the patient was cancer-free.
Harvard medical professor Dr. Dan Longo said there were a “stunning” number of rigorous treatments that weren’t necessary. Many received a drug called Rituximab. It’s typically given eight times for aggressive lymphoma but one patient got it 94 times. In another case, 112 doses were given, when the max was 24.
In a sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s office said Fata, “is the most egregious fraudster in the history of the country, measured not only by the millions of dollars he stole but by the harm he inflicted on his victims.”
The fraud “hasn’t happened on a scale like this before anywhere,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Resnick Cohen, who called Fata’s actions “heinous and sadistically cruel.”
Lawyers Fata summoned their own witnesses Thursday after three days of unflattering testimony from experts and many patients who unwittingly went through grueling but unnecessary treatments.
Amanda Iodice, who had breast cancer, said she told Fata that she didn’t want many treatments because she’s in her 80s. She made brief remarks aimed at softening his image.
“He was extremely kind and comforting. … He exerted no pressure on me to continue,” Iodice told the judge.
Evette Aubrey, 84, knows Fata from church. She said he helped her with leg problems.
“God bless him. He’s a good man,” Aubrey said.
Fata — a native of Lebanon — owned and operated Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers with offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy and Oak Park.
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