ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) - Dr. Farid Fata's website for his Michigan Hematology Oncology practice promises the "Best Cancer Care – Anywhere." But, U. S. Attorney Barbara McQuade says otherwise.
Federal agents arrested the 48-year-old Oakland Township doctor this morning at his Rochester Hills practice. McQuade says he's charged with healthcare fraud for his role in a scheme to submit false claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary. McQuade says the fraud scheme involves $35 million.
Federal officials are alleging an even worse crime than cheating Medicare -- in their criminal complaint against Fata, FBI agents say "Dr. Fata directed the administration of unnecessary chemotherapy to patients in remission."
The feds say he also deliberately misdiagnosed patients "as having cancer to justify unnecessary cancer treatment."
Federal agents say Fata directed the "administration of chemotherapy to end-of-life patients who [would] not benefit from the treatment," and deliberately misdiagnosed "patients without cancer to justify expensive testing."
Federal agents say Dr. Fata owns and operates Michigan Hematology Oncology Centers (MHO) which has offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, and Oak Park.
Federal agents also searched Fata's house in Oakland township, as well as Fata's other offices in Clarkston and Bloomfield Hills.
The FBI also took evidence from Fata's United Diagnostics, which is just down the street from his Rochester Hills oncology office.
7 Action News was there Tuesday morning as the FBI took boxes into the Rochester Hills location to start executing their search warrant. Agents were likely looking for patient records and other evidence. We also saw federal agents remove about 100 boxes of evidence at the end of the day.
Patients who have questions concerning their medical records and/or information regarding this investigation and prosecution can call the United States Attorney's Office Information Line at 888-702-0553.
"I think it's terrible if he's giving them therapy and they didn't have cancer," said 85 year old Pat Winowiski. She's fighting cancer in her lungs and liver and she's shocked her doctor was arrested Tuesday.
"It's very upsetting because I really liked him," said Winowiski.
"I trusted him," said patient Terri Mitchell
"Are you going to get a second opinion now," asked 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.
"Yes I am," said Mitchell.
After more than 7 years of treatment with Dr. Fata, Mitchell says she's starting to doubt her diagnosis.
"I can't understand – I've talked to many people and they've said I don't understand why you're still on Retuximab for the last 7 years – cause he told me at the beginning it would be a year of treatment and 2 years of maintenance," said Mitchell.
It's clear from court records that current and former employees have turned into informants – concerned about what was happening to patients. One described working for Fata as "living with this hell."
But nothing the feds can say will convince Sally Kelley that the doctor she calls "gentle and loving" could have harmed anyone.
"I don't believe a word of it, I have total faith," said Kelley.
Dr. Fata faced a federal magistrate Tuesday afternoon. Assistant U. S. Attorneys assigned to the case argued Fata is a flight risk because he has access to about $14 million in liquid assets and a home in Lebanon. The magistrate is temporarily detaining Fata until another hearing can be held on Thursday. He faces up to 20 years behind bars if he's convicted.
Fata's wife is the CFO of his company, and the couple has three young children.
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