(WXYZ) - Dr. Farid Fata is an oncologist and hematologist with several offices throughout metro Detroit. He was arrested earlier this week and records were seized by federal agents at his clinics and his Oakland County home.
Dr. Fata is charged with healthcare fraud. The feds say he submitted false claims to Medicare for unnecessary treatments. They also allege he purposely misdiagnosed patients.
During the first court hearing in front of Magistrate David Grant, the government argued the doctor is a flight risk because he has access to $4 million in cash and other assets totaling $14 million and has family ties to Lebanon.
But his defense attorney Christopher Andreoff argued Dr. Fata is a family man, his wife was in court, he's a naturalized citizen since 2009, and while he has family in Lebanon, he's only traveled there once in ten years.
Leaving the courthouse, Fata's wife, Samar Fata, declined to comment on the proceedings. Samar Fata is the CFO of Fata's medical company.
The magistrate ruled the doctor can be released on home incarceration with electronic monitoring, surrender his passport, no contact with any of his 1,200 patients or his clinics, his 60 employees, no patient consultation, and no access to billing and check writing and set a cash bond of $170,000.
The government made an immediate appeal, but District Judge David Lawson ruled to uphold the magistrate's ruling late Thursday.
Judge Lawson says it sounds like the government may be "shooting in the dark" as far as identifying Fata's liquid assets, and the government may need more time to make its case.
The ruling does not mean Dr. Fata is free to leave jail immediately. He is expected to stay in custody until Tuesday when the court is expected to further decide the doctor's bond conditions.
The government told the magistrate it is building the case with many more patients and family members coming forward. Five family members were allowed to speak at the first hearing under victim impact rules and told the magistrate that the doctor should be held in custody because their loved ones went through-- what they say-- is unnecessary and painful treatment for cancer and died.
The government calls the doctor greedy, billing Medicare $150 million dollars and collecting $62 million in the last 3 years. Plus, government agents going through the seized records found he has 33 different bank accounts. They are trying to freeze his assets as they continue their investigation.
Family members of Fata's former patients spoke in court today, providing anecdotal evidence to the government's allegations.
"It was hard to stand and look at the man." said Jeff Berz, whose father died of cancer, "If there was any doubt in my mind that he harmed my father, it would be hard to be looking at him."
An oncology nurse who says she was once offered a job by Dr. Fata is angry, saying countless patients could have been saved from unnecessary treatments and testing.
"I showed up at 8 o'clock, after an hour and a half, I left the office, because I was so disgusted with what I observed and how the patients were being treated," said Angela Swantek.
Swantek filed a complaint against Dr. Fata in 2010 with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Six months later, she received a letter from the department that said a violation of the Public Health Code could not be established.
"That was three years ago...how many people could have been saved?" said Swantek.
Fata's defense attorney says the government's case needs independent experts to look through the thousands of files seized.
"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." said attorney Chris Andreoff, "These are just general allegations that may be coming from disgruntled employees."
Many other patients have come forward, saying the doctor has provided great medical care including a woman who did not give her name, but came to court saying the doctor treated her blood disorder during two successful pregnancies and another doctor said her treatment was correct.
Dr. Fata faces up to 20 years in prison, but that could change to life in prison if the government expands its case with a victim who died as a result of improper treatment.
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