Michigan cancer doctor Farid Fata pleads guilty to 16 counts

DETROIT – Dr. Farid Fata has pleaded guilty to 16 counts including health care fraud, conspiracy to receive kickbacks and money laundering.

He read aloud the charges he pleaded guilty to during a court hearing Tuesday. He was calm as he admitted to administering anti-cancer drugs that were medically unnecessary and filing claims to Medicare he knew to be fraudulent.

Overall, Fata pleaded guilty to 16 counts of the 23-count indictment against him. He pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to receive kickbacks and two counts of money laundering.

"It is the most egregious case of health care fraud I have ever seen," said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade. "I think what makes this case different is this is not just a case of a doctor billing Medicare for extra treatments or treatments that weren't rendered in order to make a profit. This was a case of a doctor exploiting patients, using them as commodities in order to make money."

He could face 10 years in prison for the health care fraud, 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to receive kickbacks, and 20 years in prison plus another $5 million fine for money laundering charges. The government is seeking a life-in-prison sentence. Sentencing is expected to take place in February.

Some of his victims had hoped for a trial.

"We wanted more answers. It was really important to me as long as it did," said Liz Lupo, a daughter of one of Fata's patients.

"I don't think there's any justice. I lost my sister and her children lost a mother," said Cindy Burt. "There's just no justice for that."

But others, like Dave Kroff are glad to see Fata admit to it. Kroff is remarkably upbeat considering what Fata put him through, years of unnecessary chemo that suppressed his immune system to the point he lost both his legs.

"He's one of several civil suits against Fata," said Kroff's attorney, Donna MacKenzie. "The feds have seized millions in Dr. Fata's assets. Will any of these victims see any of it?"

The cancer specialist's trial was set for Oct. 14. He owned Michigan Hematology Oncology, which had many offices in suburban Detroit.

Federal prosecutors said Fata bilked Medicare out of as much as $91 million by prescribing unnecessary chemotherapy treatments to his patients, many of whom didn't even have cancer.

Fata faced a long list of charges, including health care fraud, money laundering and naturalization fraud. He also faces a list of civil lawsuits.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Cancer doctor's fraud case