Soliciting kickbacks for home care referrals is enough to land any physician in jail or a hefty fine, but this was far from the most serious offense in the case of one Detroit-area doctor who could spend 175 years in prison for defrauding Medicare.
Farid Fata, M.D., 49, of Oakland Township, Mich., faced the statutory maximum sentence as his federal sentencing proceedings began Monday before presiding U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman of the Eastern District of Michigan.
Last September, Fata pleaded guilty for his role in a health care fraud scheme that submitted approximately $225 million in claims to Medicare over six years for providing medically unnecessary chemotherapy to patients. He was indicted in August 2013.
At the time of his plea, Fata pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay or receive kickbacks and two counts of money laundering.
A hematologist-oncologist, Fata owned and operated a cancer treatment clinic, Michigan Hematology Oncology, P.C. (MHO), which had locations in Rochester Hills, Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy and Oak Park, Mich. He also owned a diagnostic testing facility in Rochester Hills called United Diagnostics.
In his plea, Fata admitted to prescribing and administering aggressive chemotherapy, cancer treatments, intravenous iron and other infusion therapies to patients who did not need them.
As a result, Fata was able to submit approximately $225 million in claims to Medicare between August 2007 and July 2013, of which approximately $109 million was for chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, according to court documents, which also indicate that Medicare paid over $91 million to Fata, of which over $48 million was for chemotherapy and other cancer 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.
Additionally, Fata further admitted to using the proceeds of the scheme at his medical practice to promote additional health care fraud at United Diagnostics, where he administered unnecessary and expensive Positron Emission Therapy scans, for which he billed a private insurer.
It is estimated that more than 500 people suffered from Fata’s crimes, with about 150 alleged victims having filed impact statements with the court, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A criminal complaint charged against Fata at the time of his August 2013 indictment alleged that in one instance, a male patient fell down and hit his head when he came to MHO.
“Dr. Fata insisted that the patient receive his chemotherapy before he could be taken to the emergency room,” the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement. “MHO administered the chemotherapy, after which the patient was taken to the emergency room. The patient later died from his head injury.”
In another instance cited in the complaint, a patient came to MHO with “extremely low” sodium levels.
“Dr. Fata again directed that the patient first receive chemotherapy before being taken to the emergency room,” the DOJ stated. “MHO administered the chemotherapy and the patient was taken to the emergency room and hospitalized.”
In a May 28 memorandum, federal prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, however, Fata’s defense attorneys are asking that the sentence not exceed 25 years.
Written by Jason Oliva