Court denies requests by convicted cancer doctor Fata

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Convicted former cancer doctor Farid Fata, who admitted to giving chemotherapy to cancer-free patients, made a rare appearance in court Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman.

Wearing an orange prison uniform and shackled at his feet, waist and hands, Fata attended the hearing in U.S. District Court as part of a hearing to update Borman on the restitution process in his case. Fata is imprisoned at a federal correctional facility in South Carolina.

Fata’s attorney, Mark Kriger, asked Borman if Fata could speak before the court. Kriger also asked if Fata, who was noticeably thinner, could stay at the federal prison in Milan while he awaited the next hearing in the summer. Both requests were denied.

“I’m not going to order that. It’s going to be many, many months (before the next hearing),” Borman said.

Fata then waived his presence at the summer hearing.

At least 763 people have applied for restitution through a claims process as of Jan. 5, federal prosecutors and the claim’s administrator told Borman at the brief hearing. Twenty-six of those claims were filed late and a recommendation about whether they should be honored will be made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice. Other claims applications met a Nov. 14 filing deadline.

A hearing on the final report of the claims will be held in the summer before Borman. The remaining 737 claims will have to go through a final approval process and a separate judge will oversee appeals of claim forms that might be denied.

About 20 former patients and family members attended Tuesday’s hearing. Former patients of Fata’s like Terri Mitchell, who attended the hearing, said the long wait to be paid for the expenses incurred as a result of being treated by Fata is worth it. Mitchell, 55, of Rochester Hills, is looking to recoup about $43,000 in expenses.

“I don’t expect to get that much,” Mitchell said as she stood outside the federal courthouse on West Lafayette Boulevard in downtown Detroit after the hearing.

Mitchell, a former longtime truck driver for a local supermarket chain, said Fata told her she had cancer in 2006 and treated her with a slew of medications she said caused her other chronic health problems and burned her face, causing blisters. She said seeing Fata in court Tuesday was difficult.

“I’d like to grab him and give him some needles and knives with a little juice,” said Mitchell.

Terry Spurlock, who said Fata treated him for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, also came to court Tuesday looking for an update on his claim. He asked Fata softly if he had gotten a prison tattoo yet.

Spurlock of Holly said he lost a home, a well-paying job and his health as a result of Fata’s harsh medical treatments. He said Fata caused more health problems than he cured.

“That’s what he did to everybody,” said Spurlock on Tuesday. “He stripped our immune system.”

Spurlock and the others who have filed claims said they are keeping their fingers crossed that they regain their health and that they get restitution to help them do that.

The claims will be paid for by a restitution fund set up with $11.7 million for former Fata patients’ expenses. The funds came from $13 million in liquidated assets of the former Oakland Township resident. Funeral expenses and mental health treatment also will be reimbursed. The restitution does not reimburse victims for “pain and suffering,” lost wages, attorneys’ fees or travel expenses for medical treatment. Individuals were required to provide some documentation as part of the application for the funds.

Fata, in his early 50s, was sentenced in July 2015 to 45 years behind bars for an expansive insurance fraud scheme that involved over-treating some patients and under-treating others so that he could reap millions in Medicare and private medical insurance payouts. The far-reaching medical insurance fraud scheme netted Fata at least $34 million from the federal and private insurances companies.

Federal prosecutors and Fata’s attorneys agreed that about 553 patients may have been affected, but prosecutors say the number could be higher. About 17,000 patients were seen at Fata’s five Metro Detroit hematology clinics.

In emotionally charged statements at his sentencing, some victims and their relatives called Fata “evil” and “a monster.” They told how they or their loved ones were subjected to grueling chemotherapy and other medical treatments, sometimes given unnecessarily or in dangerously large doses.

Fata, who pleaded guilty in September 2014 to 16 counts of healthcare fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to give or receive kickbacks, begged Borman for mercy at his sentencing in 2015.

“I stand before you ashamed of my actions. ... It all went wrong,” said Fata at the time. “I cannot bring back the past. My quest for power is self-destructive.”

(313) 222-2027