By building a well-respected and insulated cancer practice, Detroit cancer doctor Farid Fata, convicted of fraud last year, protected himself from scrutiny and used patients as part of a horrifying moneymaking scam, according to Dateline NBC. It wasn't until one patient broke her leg that suspicions gave way to an investigation.
Fata was sentenced to 45 years in prison last year after pleading guilty to orchestrating a healthcare fraud scheme in which he prescribed unnecessary chemotherapy treatments and even fabricated cancer diagnosis altogether in an effort to collect money on expensive cancer care.
On Friday, Dateline aired a one-hour special detailing the elaborate scheme by the renowned doctor--recognized as one of the top oncologists in Detroit--that left patients with longstanding side effects from unnecessary chemotherapy treatments. Fata was first reported to the Michigan Department of Health in 2010 by Angela Swantek after she saw patients receiving incorrect doses and prescriptions of chemotherapy during a job interview, and immediately realized it was a scam to overbill insurance companies. However, it wasn't until 2013, when patient Monica Flagg broke her leg after beginning a lifetime of chemotherapy prescribed by Fata, that more red flags cropped up.
Flagg's broken leg led another physician working at Fata's practice, Dr. Soe Maunglay, to review her chart. After he realized Flagg didn't have any signs of cancer, he resigned and brought his concerns to Fata's business manager, George Karadsheh. Karadsheh eventually took financial documents to a whistleblower attorney who brought the case to Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
"This is the most egregious case of fraud that I've ever seen in my life, and that I'm aware of in the entire country," McQuade told Dateline.
Investigators described how Fata set up an insular practice, using fraudulent reimbursement to build six clinics, a diagnostic testing center, a pharmacy and a radiation testing facility that allowed him to keep patients within the confines of his practice. Not only did this allow him to submit more claims, it prevented outsiders from looking at patient files.
Many patients have filed civil suits against Fata and the hospitals where he held privileges, and earlier this month Karadsheh filed new allegations against new defendants, which the government is currently investigating. Former patients have pointed to the Department of Health's failure to investigate Fata in 2010, which allowed him to continue his scheme. Michigan's Bureau of Professional Licensing said there was not enough information at the time to substantiate Swantek's claims, but that new measures have been implemented.
To learn more:
- watch the Dateline NBC episode
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Farid Fata whistleblower files new claims against unnamed defendants