February 20, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Judge: Metro Detroit doctor facing Medicare fraud charges may conduct opinion poll

Detroit — A local cancer doctor facing multiple charges of Medicare fraud, money laundering and other crimes in U.S. District Court may conduct a poll prior to jury selection in his criminal case, a judge ruled on Thursday.

In a one-page ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman wrote “the Court will not prohibit the Defendant from conducting an Opinion Poll in advance of Jury Selection.”

Fata, a physician who is an Oakland Township resident, has a trial scheduled for Aug. 12.

Federal investigators alleged that from August 2007 to July 2013, Fata's HMO practice billed Medicare around $225 million, of which $109 million was for chemotherapy or other cancer treatments.

Medicare paid more than $91 million to Fata's medical practice. Many of the treatments, government attorneys charge, were administered to patients who did not have cancer. Some patients underwent grueling chemotherapy treatments that the doctor knew were useless, the government charges.

Fata attorney Mark Kriger declined comment on Thursday.

According to a pleading filed by Fata’s attorneys, Fata wants to use an independent jury poll to support a transfer of venue motion.

Fata’s attorneys have asked the court to allow an automated telephone survey polling of up to 2,000 citizens in the jury catchment area.

According to court documents, the proposed survey script requests answers to questions regarding the approval or disapproval of President Barack Obama, whether the respondent preferred Gov. Rick Snyder or challenger Mark Schauer and whether the minimum wage should be raised — before seeking responses to Fata’s upcoming trial.

The proposed script would ask: “Based on the news coverage, ‘Do you think he is guilty of the fraudulent conduct of which he is accused, and can he ‘receive a fair trial?’”

Borman tentatively concluded there would be prejudice in the survey then ordered both parties to file briefs on the survey before he issued a final ruling.

In her response filed Feb. 11, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said a flat prohibition on polling was not necessary “although a public opinion poll will unlikely lead to a change in venue.”

Fata is in federal prison in Milan where he has been locked up since his arrest in August. His $9 million bond was revoked in October despite efforts by his attorneys to have it lowered.

jchambers@detroitnews.com