Detroit area cancer specialist Dr. Farid Fata will serve 45 years in prison for a health care fraud scheme that generated about $34 million in fraudulent Medicare claims.
Fata admitted to administering medically unnecessary cancer treatments to 553 patients. Those treatments included chemotherapy, intravenous iron, and various infusion therapies.
Fata also falsely diagnosed some patients with cancer, and under treated other patients in order to optimize his profits. In addition, Fata admitted to soliciting kickbacks from Guardian Angel Hospice and Guardian Angel Home Health Care in exchange for referring patients to those facilities.
In September, 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. Fata will serve 45 years without parole and forfeit $17.6 million.
According to U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, Michigan has had a serious health care fraud problem in the past, but fraud has decreased since the Medicare Fraud Strike Force began targeting fraud in the state.
The Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a group of lawyers from Washington D.C. at the Department of Justice, embedded in various U.S. Attorneys offices around the country.
"Michigan was identified as a hot spot maybe five or six years ago because of the very large number of billings that occurred here," says McQuade. She cites a number of factors that have contributed to the problem, including a large number of people living in poverty. People will sometimes sell their personal information, which can then be used to generate fraudulent Medicare billings.
"We've been seeing a decrease in recent years and I'm hopeful that it's because of the great work that has been done by agents and prosecutors in this district to bring offenders to justice, and we hope that maybe some doctors and other providers are getting the message that maybe Michigan is not a great place to get away with health care fraud," says McQuade.
The Fata case is the most egregious example of health care fraud that has come from these investigations. Medicare fraud doesn't usually result in harm to patients. However, McQuade says she can't guarantee that a similar situation could not happen again in another clinic.
"One of the best ways to assure that this doesn't happen to you is to seek a second opinion when you get a diagnosis of cancer or other serious disease," says McQuade.
According to McQuade, the case was brought to the attention of law enforcement by a whistleblower in Fata's office. "The investigation was conducted very very quickly, over the course of a weekend, the investigators interviewed patients, reviewed files, talked to experts, and got search warrants sworn out so that they could take down his office by the following Tuesday."