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Fata whistleblower files new allegations in cancer case

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The whistle-blower who helped convict and imprison former oncologist Farid Fata on Medicare fraud has filed an amended civil complaint with new allegations against new defendants, his attorney said.

David Haron, who represents whistle-blower George Karadsheh, said the names of the defendants and the allegations are under seal while the government investigates the new claims, which were filed on Dec. 28 in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

The civil complaint contains no allegations against Fata, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2015 for giving chemotherapy to cancer-free patients while also over-medicating others. It was part of a wide-reaching health insurance scheme to bilk Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Medicare of about $34 million in insurance payments.

“I can’t talk about the new allegations and the new defendants,” Haron said. “I can’t discuss why or who or what. When it’s unsealed, it will be clear why we added them.”

In a motion to unseal the complaint in part, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms requested an additional six months to investigate the claims and to make a decision whether to intervene in the case while it remains under seal.

The government has until July 5 to decide.

Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said she “can neither confirm nor deny” the investigation.

Karadsheh was the practice manager at Michigan Hematology Oncology Inc., Fata’s network of clinics. He did everything from coordinating physician recruitment to ordering supplies.

The Detroit News reported in June 2015 that Dr. Soe Maunglay, an oncologist who worked with Fata, followed up on a patient who he found didn’t have cancer and reported concerns to Karadsheh, who in turn notified the FBI of Fata’s crimes.

On Aug. 5, 2013, Karadsheh officially filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in federal court. Fata was arrested the following morning.

Haron said he reached a resolution with the U.S. Attorney’s Office over the share of the reward for Karadsheh, who filed the original lawsuit filed under False Claims Act. In those cases, a whistle-blower typically gets 15 percent to 25 percent of the recovered money in the case.

Haron said Karadsheh agreed to settle for 10 percent of the estimated $10 million recovered from Fata, because he wants the money to go to the victims.

The rest of the money, 90 percent, is to be placed into a victims fund, which is expected to be set up in the next few months, Haron said.

The government has taken about $13 million in cash and assets from Fata in a forfeiture process, Balaya said.

“Once the forfeiture process is final, which includes resolving third party claims, we will be able to finalize the details of the restitution process that will ensure the return of as much money as possible to the victims,” Balaya said.

Fata, who remains in a federal prison in Williamsburg County in South Carolina, is appealing his criminal case, seeking to have his conviction vacated.

His attorneys filed a 60-page brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 7. alleging that during multiple days of pre-sentencing in the case, the judge “improperly permitted the presentation of deeply disturbing narratives from supposed ‘victims’ of Dr. Fata’s misconduct under circumstances that did not allow the defense to meaningfully test their accuracy and truthfulness.”

“Although the trial judge expressed the belief that he was not affected by these presentations, it is difficult to see how he could have truly put these highly evocative, deeply compelling narratives of pain and suffering out of mind,” attorney N. C. Deday LaRene wrote in the brief.

Fata’s release date is 2052.

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