Cancer doc Fata's sentence stands, federal judge rules
Disgraced cancer doctor Farid Fata will not have his sentence tossed, a federal judge ruled Friday.
Fata, who was sentenced to a 45-year prison term in 2015 for his wide-ranging Medicare and insurance fraud, sought last year to have his guilty plea withdrawn arguing that he was misled about his likely sentence.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge David Grand said Fata pleaded guilty because "he was guilty."
Grand also said in his ruling that "Fata, knowing his receipt of any cooperation credit was uncertain, pleaded guilty for many reasons, including: the evidence against him was overwhelming; he knew he would receive a life sentence if convicted at trial; he wanted to save his patients from having to testify at trial and from enduring a lengthy and 'brutal' trial; he recognized the horrific nature of his conduct and 'did not feel [he] deserved a trial'; he wanted an opportunity to ask for leniency and mercy, which request would carry more weight if he pleaded guilty and accepted responsibility for his actions."
Grant also ruled that Fata "knew that opportunity only existed if he first pleaded guilty"; it was discovered that Fata had forged a document in an attempt to manufacture a defense; and ultimately, as Fata testified at his plea hearing in September 2014, he pleaded guilty because he believed he was guilty.
The organizer of the support group Patients & Families Treated by Dr. Fata praised the judge's ruling Friday.
"That's the greatest news ever! Now maybe they will (speed up efforts in) getting us our (restitution) money," said Geraldine Smith Parkin.
During his appearance before U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, Fata cried and pleaded guilty to 13 counts of health care fraud, one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks, and two counts of money laundering.
Fata claimed his lawyer Christopher Andreoff assured him that he would get a shorter sentence if he pleaded guilty. But the government didn’t seek his cooperation, and he didn’t get a break.
"The idea of leniency and cooperation benefit was the catalyst that (my attorney) created to create a false glamour of not dying in federal prison," Fata wrote in a May 10 statement filed in federal court. "Had I been properly advised ... I would not have pleaded guilty and instead proceeded to trial as I had always intended to do.
"My guilty pleas were not the result of my actually being guilty," Fata wrote. "From day one to the present, I have steadfastly maintained my innocence."
Patty Hester, a former patient of Fata who was needlessly treated for a pre-cursor to leukemia that she actually didn't have. Hester was among those who attended the July hearing for Fata. She said she is happy with Grand's ruling.
"I'm glad he can't appeal," said Hester Friday who said she is looking forward to the restitution funds to be given to former patients and surviving family members. "I thought (the case) was cut and dry."
Andreoff rejected Fata's assertion, saying he and co-counsel Mark Kriger advised their client to go to trial.
Prosecutors said last year that Fata "forged" the signatures of Andreoff and Kriger in his legal briefs seeking to have his prison sentence set aside: "This is not the first time Fata has presented forged signatures to the Court in support of his claim."
Fata, who's in his mid 50s, bilked Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Medicare of about $34 million by prescribing chemotherapy to cancer-free patients while over-medicating others at his five Detroit-area hematology and oncology clinics.
During a hearing last July on his request, Fata said the lawyers led him to believe that if he pleaded guilty and provided information to federal law enforcement officials, he could get a break with the government and get a lesser sentence.
The disgraced convicted oncologist testified, through sobs, that Andreoff “mentioned to me the judge will be lenient with me if you’ll plead guilty."
Fata made frequent admissions of guilt in private consultation, Andreoff testified during that hearing.