A prominent Michigan cancer doctor made a shocking admission in court on Tuesday. Clad in a red jail suit, Dr. Farid Fata admitted he lied to patients and unnecessarily treated team with chemotherapy in order to reap millions in insurance claims.
Fata pleaded guilty to 16 charges, including health care fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. He read off a slew of drug names during his guilty plea that he administered to patients. After each one, he said “I knew that it was medically unnecessary.”
Fata and his attorney declined to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said she was not interested in negotiating with Fata anyways.
“We weren’t interested in bargaining anything away,” McQuade told the Associated Press. “His conduct was so egregious. It wasn’t a matter of stealing money but torturing patients by lying to them about having cancer… The idea that a doctor would lie to a patient just to make money is shocking ... Dr. Fata was unique in that he saw patients not as people to heal, but as commodities to exploit."
Fata already pleaded guilty before the trial. Tuesday’s hearing was supposed to be a chance for prosecutors to present evidence against him, including emails showing that he was interested in buying a $3 million mansion in Lebanon during the peak of his scheme. When he announced that he was guilty and did not wish to negotiate a plea deal, the evidence hearing became unnecessary. Prosecutors are pursuing a life in prison sentence for Fata.
Chemotherapy nurse Angela Swantek is the one who alerted authorities to Fata’s malpractice. She interviewed for a position at Fata’s office in 2010, and was blown away by what she saw.
"I left after an hour and half. I thought this is insane," Swantek said. She reported Fata to authorities in 2010, but a brief investigation found he was doing nothing wrong. Three years later, Swantek was elated to hear Fata had been charged.
“I started crying,” she said. “I thought about all of the patients he took care of and harmed.”
Fata’s surviving victims meet regularly to discuss the misery he put them through. Many loved ones of people who died under Fata’s care can’t help but wonder if their friends and family members would still be alive today if they’d been treated properly.
"Dr. Fata told my dad it would make it easier. His kidneys eventually failed," said Jeff Berz, whose father was treated by Fata. "Did the drugs kill him or the cancer? I don't have any definitive answers, but I do have my suspicions. Every time I turn around, I'm running into somebody who knows somebody who was treated by Dr. Fata.”
Fata is scheduled to be sentenced at a February 23, 2015 hearing.