A Detroit-area cancer doctor was sentenced Friday to 45 years in prison for a massive insurance scheme that saw him collect more than $17 million while his patients suffered through needless chemotherapy.
Dr. Farid Fata, 50, wept in court as he apologized for the harm he caused his patients. He pled guilty to fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.
“I misused my talents, yes, and permitted this sin to enter me because of power and greed,” Fata said. “My quest for power is self-destructive.”
U.S. prosecutors found that Fata had fraudulently billed Medicare and other insurance companies for 553 patients who were misdiagnosed, overtreated and undertreated.
According to former patients and experts who testified in court, in some cases, he gave nearly four times the recommended dosage amount of aggressive cancer drugs. In one of the most egregious cases, a patient was given toxic chemotherapy for five years when the standard treatment was six months.
“This is a huge, horrific series of criminal acts that were committed by the defendant,” U.S. District Judge Paul Borman said before sentencing Fata. He added that the cancer doctor “practiced greed and shut down whatever compassion he had.”
Through the fraudulent claims Medicare and other insurers were billed for more than $34 million while Fata collected $17.6 million in billing he admitted was unnecessary.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade called the actions “the most serious case of fraud in the history of the country.”
“There have certainly been significant financial fraud cases but nothing with the kind of stunning physical harm that we saw in this case,” McQuade told reporters following the sentencing. “We thought a lentghy sentence was necessary both to punish Dr. Fata and to deter any other doctor or other professional out there who would even think about causing such harm on his patients.”
Federal prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence of 175 years, while lawyers for Fata sought 25 years.
Ellen Piligiam, whose late father was administered powerful drugs he didn’t need for a tumor in his shoulder, described how Fata used terminal illness to prey on his patients.
“He preyed on our trust, our exhaustion, our fears,” Piligiam told the Associated Press.
McQuade said although there are 553 documented victims there were countless more who suffered.
“For every one of those individual victims there are countless family members who also suffered along with them. So it is hard to quantity the amount of harm that happens in a case like this,” she said.
Prosecutors said Fata ran the scheme from 2009 to 2014 through his medical businesses, including Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers, which has seven offices in the Detroit area.
*With files from the Associated Press