Dr. Farid Fata, a prominent cancer doctor in Michigan, admitted in court to intentionally and wrongfully diagnosing healthy people with cancer. Fata also admitted to giving them chemotherapy drugs for the purpose of making a profit. The cancer doctor's guilty plea shocked many in the courtroom, according to The Detroit Free Press. Fata owned Michigan Hematology Oncology, which had multiple offices throughout Detroit's suburbs. Fata's reach included offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy, and Oak Park, Michigan. The doctor stated his plea in the absence of a plea deal and with tearful eyes, according to CBS News.
"It is my choice," Fata said on Tuesday of his guilty plea.
In the Detroit courtroom, the cancer doctor named numerous, dangerous drugs that he prescribed to his patients. With each admittance he stated, "I knew that it was medically unnecessary."
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade will seek life in prison for what she called "the most egregious" health care fraud case she has ever seen. McQuade said that in addition to insurance fraud, which involved a $35-million Medicare fraud scheme from 2009 until the present, Fata also harmed, and in some cased subsequently killed, his patients with dangerous chemotherapy drugs they did not need. According to government records, Fata's medical practice included 1,200 patients. The formerly prominent cancer doctor will be sentenced in February before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. The doctor's bond was set at $9 million.
"In this case, we had Dr. Fata administering chemotherapy to people who didn't need it, essentially putting poison into their bodies and telling them that they had cancer when they didn't have cancer," the prosecutor told the Detroit Free Press. "The idea that a doctor would lie to a patient just to make money is shocking... Dr. Fata was unique in that he saw patients not as people to heal, but as commodities to exploit."
The cancer doctor, 49, is a married father of three who resided in Oakland Township. Hoping it would help his case, Fata's lawyers attempted to get the case moved from the Detroit area, according to CBS News this summer. Fata became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 2009 and is a native to Lebanon. Court documents from also 2013 allege a charge of "Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization" for stating that he had not committed a crime in the U.S. that he was not found guilty of yet. In all, he pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering, 13 counts of health care fraud, and one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks.
"I'm numb," Angela Swantek, a chemotherapy nurse and a whistleblower of the cancer-treatment doctor, told reporters. "I'm not surprised though; I wondered how his team was going to defend him. The charts don't lie."
"I left after an hour and half. I thought this is insane," Swantek said about her short time in Fata's office in 2010 where she noticed patients receiving chemotherapy incorrectly. She wrote a letter to the state suggesting an investigation that day. In 2011, the state informed her they found no proof of wrongdoing at Fata's office.
"I handed them Dr. Fata on a platter in 2010 and they did absolutely nothing," Swantek said, adding she was relieved when he was charged two years later. "I started crying. I thought about all of the patients he took care of and harmed."
"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 Caldwell stated. "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."
Some of Fata's victims are disappointed that they didn't get the opportunity to speak at a trial, according to Click On Detroit. Others are glad to hear him admit to his fraud.
"I don't think there's any justice. I lost my sister and her children lost a mother," said Cindy Burt. "There's just no justice for that."
White Lake resident Karen Baldwin said her husband, Harrison, was treated for a diagnosis of brain cancer. She is unsatisfied with the guilty plea.
"To me true justice would be that Fata drops dead," Baldwin said, adding, "And I go home and my husband's at the table saying, 'What's for dinner? I'm hungry.'"
Dave Kroff was also put through years of unnecessary chemotherapy by Fata. Kroff says that the chemo suppressed his immune system so badly that he lost both of his legs.
"He's one of several civil suits against Fata," Donna MacKenzie, Kroff's attorney, stated. "The feds have seized millions in Dr. Fata's assets. Will any of these victims see any of it?"
Multiple civil suits have already been filed, according to Click On Detroit. For example, Donna Virkus, the daughter of one of Fata's patients, says that her 78-year-old father, Donald, was referred to Fata by a concerned physician to rule out esophageal cancer.
"It's unbelievable. I can't believe we put our trust into a doctor that was supposed to take care of him and ended up killing him," Virkus said.
Donna's father never had the cancer, a review of Donald's medical files showed. Yet, the prestigious cancer doctor ordered two years of chemo. The civil suit alleges that Donald developed a blood-related cancer as an effect of the chemotherapy treatments. Donald later died.
Civil suits filed against the Michigan doctor over fraudulent cancer treatments include other doctors and oncology nurses as well.