DETROIT – A judge sentenced a Detroit-area cancer doctor to 45 years in prison Friday for a massive scheme to collect millions from insurance companies while poisoning hundreds of patients through needless treatments that wrecked their health.
U.S. District Judge Paul Borman this week heard stories of brittle bones and fried organs as patients chillingly described the effects of excessive chemotherapy at the hands of Dr. Farid Fata.
"This is a huge, horrific series of criminal acts," Borman said before announcing the sentence.
Fata, 50, offered no excuses before getting his punishment. Stone-faced all week in court, he repeatedly broke down in loud sobs as he begged for mercy Friday.
"I misused my talents, yes, and permitted this sin to enter me because of power and greed," Fata said. "My quest for power is self-destructive."
He said his patients came to him seeking "compassionate care" but "I failed, yes, I failed."
Fata, 50, pleaded guilty last year to fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. He didn't strike a deal with prosecutors, so Borman needed much of the week to hear details about treatments. Patients hired a bus to get to court Monday.
"He preyed on our trust, our exhaustion, our fears," said Ellen Piligiam, whose late father, a doctor, was administered powerful drugs he didn't need for a tumor in his shoulder.
Federal prosecutor Catherine Dick had asked for a 175-year prison sentence. Fata sought 25 years.
"It is not mob justice. It is appropriate for this crime," Dick told the judge, referring to the extraordinary request.
The government identified 553 victims, along with insurance companies. Medicare and insurers paid at least $17 million.
The patients were "women and men, old and young, of every race, religion, creed, profession, temperament and understanding," prosecutors said in a court filing.
Fata will get credit for about two years served in custody since his arrest in 2013. His stay in the federal prison system also could be shortened with good behavior.
His clinic, Michigan Hematology Oncology, had seven offices in the Detroit area and a related business that performed tests to look for cancer. Testifying for the government, two experts from Harvard medical school said they were troubled after looking at a small portion of patient files.
"There is an aggressive approach to treating cancer. This was beyond. This was over the top," Dr. Dan Longo said.