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Ghoulish Medicare Fraudster Admits Giving Chemo to Healthy Patients

Just weeks before a planned trial, Michigan oncologist Farid Fata pleaded guilty to 16 of 23 criminal counts, including charges of giving chemotherapy to healthy patients in order to get Medicare payments.

The prosecution had accused Dr. Fata — whose misdeeds were flagged by a whistleblower — of a ghoulish set of frauds including deliberately misdiagnosing patients without cancer in order to justify expensive therapy; administering unneeded chemotherapy to patients in remission; administering chemotherapy to end-of-life patients who would not benefit from such treatment; fabricating other diagnoses such as anemia and fatigue to justify unnecessary hematology treatments; and distributing controlled substances to patients without medical necessity.

Dr. Fata’s company, Michigan Hematology Oncology (MHO), billed $35 million to Medicare in just two years; of that amount, $25 million was attributed directly to the doctor’s services.

In 2010, a chemotherapy nurse, Angela Swantek, went to MHO for a job interview and saw what she described as a “chemo mill.” Disturbed, Ms. Swantek filed a detailed complaint with the state of Michigan. That complaint didn’t result in a prosecution, but the federal government took up the case, filing charges in 2013.

U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan called Dr. Farid’s conduct the most egregious case of health care fraud that her office had ever seen. Dr. Farid didn’t just defraud the federal government, she said: He actively harmed his patients.

Sentencing is expected in February 2015; the government is seeking a life sentence for Dr. Farid.

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