Cancer doctor’s victims to get funeral, medical funds

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Funeral expenses and mental health treatments for victims of jailed oncologist Dr. Farid Fata will be covered by a new restitution fund of up to $1.8 million, according to federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday the fund will cover funeral expenses as well as psychiatric and psychological expenses paid out of pocket related to Fata’s treaments.

Fata bilked Medicare and Blue Cross out of millions in an elaborate insurance fraud after prescribing needless chemotherapy and other treatments for at least 553 of his patients. Some did not have cancer.

“We do think it’s important to show an acknowledgment of what people went through,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Dick told U.S. District Judge Paul Borman.

Victims of Fata’s fraud, as well as survivors whose family members died after his treatment, gathered in U.S District Court in Detroit to learn more about compensation plans created by the government using forfeiture and restitution money from Fata’s criminal case.

The money for the new fund is coming from a $12-$13 million restitution fund, most of which is coming from a liquidation of Fata’s assets. Ten percent of the total will go to the case’s whistle-blower.

The remaining money in the compensation fund — an estimated $10 million — will provide victims reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses related to remedial treatments needed as the result of Fata’s medical orders and care.

Sydney Zaremba and Michelle Mannarino each lost their mother after Fata overtreated them.

Mannarino, whose mother, Joan Donohue, was treated by Fata said she was pleased that funeral coverage is going to be part of reimbursable expenses for victim’s families.

“Other mothers are going to be recognized as victims,” Mannarino said.

Zaremba lost her 88-year-old mother, Helene Zaremba, after Fata overtreated her for a treatable lymphoma.

“It won’t bring our mothers back but it is something to say I’m sorry,” Sydney said of the compensation fund, which will range from $1.1 million to $1.8 million.

Court-appointed facilitator Randi Roth will begin meeting in May with victims to hammer out a document to apply for restitution, and a website and hotline will be set up.

Roth was the court-appointed monitor in a billion-dollar discrimination lawsuit brought by African-American farmers against the U.S. government.

Roth will meet with victims and family members the week of May 16 in focus groups to get their input into creating a restitution form and a focus group will help draft the document.

A claims form should be online by June 1 on a public website. Telephone operators will be available to help victims and family members with questions.

Applications to the fund must be postmarked by Oct. 3

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the liquidation of Fata’s assets is an “ongoing process because of the complexity” of them.

Fata pleaded guilty in 2014 to 16 counts of health care fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to give or receive kickbacks. He is serving a 45-year sentence.