Michigan Oncologist Accused of Bilking Government Out of $35M in False Medicare Claims

Dr. Farid Fata, 48, is accused of defrauding the government of $35 million.

ByABC News
August 11, 2013, 12:41 PM

Aug. 11, 2013— -- A Michigan doctor is accused of committing health care fraud after he allegedly mistreated cancer patients and bilked the government of millions in false Medicare claims, a federal complaint said.

Dr. Farid Fata, 48, of Oakland Township, Mich., reportedly gave "unnecessary chemotherapy to patients in remission" and deliberately misdiagnosed patients in order to defraud the federally-funded health care program of approximately $35 million over a two-year period, according to the complaint.

Fata "systematically defrauded Medicare by submitting false claims for services that were medically unnecessary" for patients, which included a variety of cancer and hematology treatments given to people who did not need them, the complaint said.

Fata, who owns and operates Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers (MHO), was arrested and booked into Wayne County Jail in Detroit, Mich. on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan said. Federal agents raided his multiple offices in the Detroit area and seized his medical records as they continue to build a case against him.

"Violating a patient's trust and placing them at risk through fraudulent abuse of our nation's health care system is deplorable," FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley III said in a news release.

Jeff Berz, whose father was a former patient of Fata's, testified at Fata's bond hearing on Friday that when his father didn't respond to chemotherapy, the allegedly deceptive doctor refused to stop administering the drugs.

"From the time that my father began getting the chemotherapy, his health deteriorated," he said.

Oncology nurse Angela Swantek told ABC News she first complained to investigators about Fata's alleged wrongdoings after she spent two hours at one of his clinics back in 2010.

"I don't know how he's gotten away with it for this long," she told ABC News. "I was disgusted. I got in the car, I was still sitting in the parking lot and I was truly almost in tears just because of what I saw and how patients were getting their chemotherapy."

But Fata's attorney, Christopher Andreoff, said the claims against his client were false.

"The government has not retained an expert to give an opinion that there was a mistreatment, or misdiagnosis, or unnecessary tests given to any patient," he said.

Fata is due back in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Tuesday morning as federal prosecutors seek to keep the doctor behind bars, according to court records.

As of Friday, Fata's bond was set at $170,000, Andreoff told ABCNews.com. Under current bond conditions, Fata would be subject to home confinement and electronic monitoring 24 hours a day. The doctor would not be able to practice medicine or prescribe medication, which Andreoff said "could devastate, if not close his practice."

Fata has also surrendered both his Lebanese and U.S. passports, Andreoff said.

If convicted, Fata faces up to 20 years in jail.