Judge orders $9M bond in cancer doc's fraud case

By Mike Householder

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A Detroit-area cancer specialist accused of intentionally misdiagnosing patients will have to post a $9 million bond if he wants to get out of jail pending trial, a federal judge ordered Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Sean Cox made the ruling, following a hearing in which prosecutors asked him to increase Dr. Farid Fata's $170,000 bond to $9 million, based on the assets they said were available to Fata and his wife.

The government, which has seized another $7 million of the Fatas' holdings, wants to keep the doctor locked up, fearing he may flee to Lebanon, his native country.

But defense attorney Christopher Andreoff said Fata is a U.S. citizen who has been in this country for 20 years.

"This court concludes that if defendant is released on bond, there is a serious risk that defendant will flee this jurisdiction and threaten the safety of persons in the community," Cox wrote. "Nevertheless, this court concludes that there is a combination of conditions that can reasonably assure both the safety of the community and that defendant will not flee this jurisdiction."

And they include barring Fata, 48, from practicing medicine during the case and ordering him to remain electronically tethered to his Oakland Township home.

Before Fata can post bond, however, Cox said he will need to disclose the source of the funds at a hearing.

During Tuesday's hearing, federal prosecutor Catherine Dick asked Cox to prohibit Fata from practicing medicine, saying the unnecessary procedures he ordered caused irreparable pain and suffering to an untold number of patients and their families.

Fata is a "danger to the community as long as he has a medical license," Dick told the judge.

Andreoff countered by saying his client has staff privileges at seven hospitals. Plus, the defense attorney said Fata is entitled to a presumption of innocence and the right to work while defending himself from the charges against him.

Andreoff also argued that the government already has seized the vast majority of the cash available to his client and told Cox that although Fata preferred a $25,000 bond, he was prepared to post a $170,000 bond previously ordered by another judge.

Cox is the third judge to consider Fata's bond conditions.

Last week, federal prosecutors charged Fata with fraud, accusing him of deliberately misdiagnosing patients and ordering chemotherapy for others who were in remission or had no chance of surviving, all to reap millions from the Medicare program.

Matthew Fiems, who attended Tuesday's hearing, said he wants the doctor behind bars.

His mother, Susan, who died five years ago, was one of Fata's patients.

Matthew Fiems, 43, is convinced his mother should have been allowed to come home and spend quality time with family before her death.

"All I know is that this physician took away what time Mom had left," Fiems said. "How do you make that right?"

Fata owns Michigan Hematology Oncology, which has offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy and Oak Park.

Two of the doctor's patients were in court to support him.

One of them, Theresa Pickering, who wore a "Cancer Sucks" T-shirt, walked back two rows before the hearing and embraced Fata's wife, Samar, whispered in her ear and kissed her on the cheek.

Later, supporters yelled out that they loved Fata as he was escorted out of Cox's courtroom. He mouthed, "Thank you," as he walked.

The government says the clinics billed $35 million to Medicare over two years with Fata making $24.3 million in drug infusion billings directly to Medicare.

A criminal complaint quotes co-workers and former employees as saying dozens of people passed through the office each day, although Fata spent less than five minutes with each patient and hired doctors who may not have been properly licensed to practice medicine.

In one case, a patient fell and hit his head at Fata's clinic but was told he needed chemotherapy before he could be taken to a hospital, according to the FBI. The man later died from the head injury. His name was not disclosed.

Matthew Fiems, of Canton Township, said a second opinion showed his mother actually had pancreatic cancer and recommended she receive palliative care, rather than chemotherapy.

"He can't be allowed to do this to anyone else," he said.

Published: Thu, Aug 15, 2013