[Story updated June 2019] We have followed the case of Dr. Farid Fata for many months. His case is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, his case may go down in history as one of the worst Medicare frauds the nation has ever seen. The whistleblowers and his victims, however, are heroes.
In his early career, Farid Fata was a story of success. Born in Lebanon, Fata moved to the United States and received advanced cancer training at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He would then move to Michigan and start his own oncology practice. Soon it was the largest and some say the best in Michigan.
Apparently that wasn’t enough for Dr. Fata. Within a few years he was billing millions of dollars to Medicare. The Justice Department says he was billing for dangerous cancer treatments that were not medically necessary, however. In other words, he decided to put profits before patients.
We see many Medicare fraud cases in our whistleblower practice. Most involve billing for services never performed or billing for unnecessary tests. The victims in these cases are taxpayers, you and I.
The FBI says that Medicare fraud costs taxpayers $80 billion per year. It’s a huge problem and we are the victims. If there is any silver lining, however, it is that “ordinary” Medicare fraud may hurt our wallets but there is no death, pain and suffering or permanent injuries.
Farid Fata wasn’t satisfied with billing here and there for unnecessary tests, however. He wasn’t satisfied with being the most successful oncologist in Michigan and he certainly wasn’t satisfied with saving lives. He wanted more. Like the $3 million castle he was trying to buy in Lebanon.
Instead of a castle, he now resides in a small prison cell.
When I first wrote about Farid Fata’s case, a reader of this blog wrote back and called him the “Butcher of Detroit”. Someone else called him “Dr. Death,” an apparent reference to some of his patients who were killed by dangerous doses of chemo drugs. Some of his chemo patients didn’t even have cancer!
Another publication called him the modern day Dr. Frankenstein.
Even the Justice Department had unusually harsh words for Dr. Fata, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told the court,
“Dr. Fata is the most egregious fraudster in the history of this country, measured not by the millions of dollars he stole but by the harm he inflicted on his victims, over 550 identified so far. Rather than healing or easing the suffering of the cancer patients and others who sought is help, Fata administered thousands of unnecessary treatments – a variety of chemical infusions and injections, all with potentially harmful and even deadly side effects – to the patients who entrusted him with their care. He did it entirely for his own benefit.”
Fata faced 175 years or more in prison. Medicare fraud charges normally carry a 10-year maximum sentence but can be enhanced if a victim suffered substantial injury or death.
Fata’s day of reckoning came last week. U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman sentenced Fata to 45 years in prison. With good time, he will be eligible for release when he is 88 years old.
For his part, Fata deserves a tiny bit of credit. Last year he pleaded guilty to all charges including 13 counts of Medicare fraud. That saved his victims, or the families of the victims that had died, from having to relive their horrors. At sentencing, Fata said, “I misused my talents, yes and permitted this sin to enter me because of power and greed.”
Reaction to the sentencing was mixed. The sentencing hearing took an entire week, mostly to accommodate the many victims who wished to be heard by the court. Television and news reports show many of his victims were not satisfied with 45 years and thought he should do life.
Actuarial tables show that the average life expectancy of a federal inmate serving a sentence of 39 years or more (Fata’s sentence is 45) is just 64 years old.
The bottom line? Farid Fata will die in prison.
Update June 2019.
Farid Fata Demands New Trial, Seeks to Get Out of Prison
Fata pleaded guilty, offered a weak apology… and then went sentenced to 45 years, promptly changed his mind. What did he expect?
When the Justice Department labels you the worst fraudster the medical profession has ever seen and other label you Dr. Death, a butcher, and Frankemstein, 45 years seems pretty light. Especially when you consider the gruesome tales of the victims.
But Farid Fata isn’t sorry. The only think he is sorry about is spending his life in prison.
Fata first appealed his sentence. As we previously reported, an unanimous Court of Appeals panel affirmed his sentence.
Now years later, Fata is claiming he should get a redo. Like if you don’t like what the judge says or a unanimous court of appeals, you can simply have another trial. Clearly he is selfish because it would be a crime to make his patients or their next of kin relive the nightmare a second time.
Why should Fata get a new trial? Suddenly he decided he didn’t like his attorney. He says his lawyer never explained what was happening when they appeared in court together.
The Department of Justice isn’t buying any of it nor are we. According to new court filings by the Justice Department, “Directly contrary to Fata’s current assertions that Mr. Andreoff [Fata’s lawyer] urged him to plead guilty, both of Fata’s attorneys recommended that he go to trial absent a negotiated plea agreement. Furthermore, Fata understood there was no guarantee he would receive any cooperation credit should he plead guilty and attempt to cooperate with the government.”
Prosecutors also have accused Fata of forging his lawyers’ signatures.
Having a new trial would be devastating for his surviving patients. There is another why his repeated attempts to avoid staying in prison are horrible for patients.
The first whistleblower reported Fata in August 2013. Almost 6 years later, Fata’s repeated appeals and whining have meant that some $6 million in recovered funds have yet to be disbursed. The appeals are holding up patients, many of who need the money.
To learn more, be sure to read our cornerstone story on Dr. Farid Fata.
Cash Whistleblower Rewards for Stopping Medicare Fraud
The whistleblowers in this case reported Dr. Fata in order to protect patients. That is always the best motivation, although there is nothing wrong with receiving a reward as well.
We represent whistleblowers; our mission is to help them get the maximum whistleblower award allowable by state and federal law and to help our clients put an end to fraud. The whistleblowers in this case – a nurse, physician and practice administrator – wont likely collect much money. Any money recovered will probably go to victims. This is a case, however, where the whistleblowers are true heroes. But for them, Fata may have still been spreading his poison to unsuspecting patients.
Last year the federal government paid out $635 million in whistleblower awards under the federal False Claims Act. Our clients have received over $100 million. If you have information about Medicare fraud or other fraud against a government program, give us a call. The consultation is free and completely confidential. We never get paid for legal services unless we recover for you.
For more information, visit our Medicare fraud information page. Ready to see if you have a case, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by our national number at . Services available in most jurisdictions. (In Michigan? Contact our Michigan Whistleblower team directly at 313-879-2070)
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