July 14, 2015

DOJ Enforcement Spotlight — Cancer Doctor Farid Fata

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

Last Friday, the Department of Justice secured a 45-year prison sentence against the now infamous Detroit-area doctor, Farid Fata.  He was also ordered to forfeit $17.6 million of illegal reimbursements he obtained from Medicare and private insurance companies.  This stems from his guilty plea in September 2014 to violating the False Claims Act with a health care fraud scheme that included administering medically unnecessary infusions or injections to 553 individual patients and submitting $34 million worth in fraudulent healthcare claims.  “Rather than use his medical degree to save lives, Dr. Fata instead destroyed them in pursuit of profit,” said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  See DOJ Press Release.

Fata was a licensed medical doctor who owned and operated a cancer treatment clinic, Michigan Hematology Oncology P.C., with several locations in Michigan.  He also owned a diagnostic testing facility, United Diagnostics PLLC.  In connection with his guilty plea, Fata admitted to prescribing and administering unnecessary aggressive chemotherapy, cancer treatments, intravenous iron and other infusion therapies to patients in order to increase his billings to Medicare and other insurance companies.  Fata then submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare and other insurers for these unnecessary treatments.  Fata also admitted to soliciting kickbacks from Guardian Angel Hospice and Guardian Angel Home Health Care in exchange for his referral of patients to those facilities.

When it comes to committing health care fraud, the government did not mince words in describing Fata’s transgressions as about as bad as it gets for a doctor sworn to uphold the life and safety of his charges — callous, egregious, heinous, abhorrent, disgusting and diabolical:

Rather than use his medical degree to save lives, Dr. Fata instead destroyed them in pursuit of profit.  Time and again, Dr. Fata callously violated his patients’ trust as he used false cancer diagnoses and unwarranted and dangerous treatments as tools to steal millions of dollars from Medicare, even stooping to profit from the last days of some patients’ lives.  [Assistant Attorney General Caldwell]

No case has been as egregious as the conduct of Dr. Farid Fata.  Dr. Fata did not care for patients; he exploited them as commodities.  He over-treated, under-treated and outright lied to patients about whether they had cancer so that he could maximize his own profits.  [US Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan]

Fata’s heinous acts did far worse than defraud government health care programs and breach his professional oath.  Fata caused grievous emotional and physical harm, betraying the trust of hundreds of innocent patients by selfishly placing his personal financial gain over the health and welfare of those who entrusted him with their medical care.  [Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office]

It is startling and abhorrent when greed is so potent that it drives a medical professional to recklessly abandon the most basic and important principle of his profession, ‘First, Do No Harm.’  Dr. Fata did just that when he falsely diagnosed his patients with cancer and administered toxic chemotherapy with potentially harmful and even deadly side effects.  [Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General]

This is the most egregious case of fraud and deception that I have seen in my career. . . .This disgusting and diabolical scheme has hurt hundreds of patients and their families and stolen from them something that no punishment from the court can do to make them whole.  [Chief Richard Weber of the Internal Revenue Service — Criminal Investigation]

And like where so much of the credit goes these days when it comes to policing fraud and misconduct in the healthcare industry, it was a whistleblower who stepped forward to uncover Fata’s horrific scheme — George Karadsheh, the office manager for Dr. Farid Fata’s Crittenton Cancer Center in Rochester Hills, Michigan.  Thank goodness for the whistleblowers.

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