Saturday, August 10, 2013

Doctor charged with Medicare fraud needs money to post bond, attorney says

August 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Christopher Andreoff, attorney for Dr. Farid Fata, enters federal court in Detroit Friday. Fata, charged with conducting a multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud scheme, remains jailed pending a Tuesday bond hearing. (Todd McInturf/The Detroit News)
Detroit — The attorney for a doctor accused of treating cancer patients needlessly and defrauding Medicare said Friday the defendant’s friends and family will have to raise the money to free him — if a federal judge decides to grant bond.
Dr. Farid Fata will remain in jail until at least Tuesday after a hearing on his bond was adjourned Friday. He is charged with deliberately misdiagnosing patients with cancer and ordering chemotherapy for others who didn’t need it at Metro Detroit clinics. The government said Fata illegally billed Medicare for tens of millions of dollars.
Friday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Judge Sean Cox was supposed to confirm that a cash bond Fata planned to post wasn’t drawn from funds linked to the fraud case.
Fata was led into the courtroom Friday clad in green Wayne County Jail garb, hands cuffed behind his back.
In seeking to keep Fata jailed, prosecutors said the charges are serious and that they feared Fata would flee to his native Lebanon if released from jail. They said he has access to millions of dollars to finance a flight.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Grand on Thursday set release conditions for Fata. His lawyer and prosecutors both appealed, and at a hearing later Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Lawson upheld the conditions.
At Thursday’s first hearing, Grand set the $170,000 cash bond for Fata and said he would have to remain electronically tethered at his home if released. Grand also ordered that Fata not write prescriptions or otherwise practice medicine and have no contact with his clinics’ staff members.
Cox said Friday he’ll issue a three-page ruling Tuesday “to determine the appropriateness of the bond that was ordered (Thursday).”
Cox also will hold a Nebbia hearing Tuesday to determine the source of any funds Fata posts.
“The burden is on the defense to prove the funds were not obtained illegally,” assistant chief Catherine Dick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division’s Fraud Section said.
But Fata does not have the $170,000 in cash needed to secure his release, because the government froze his assets, Fata’s attorney Christopher Andreoff said.
“He’s not in a position to post bond,” Andreoff said. “We’re going to try to see if we can get people to come forward to raise the money, but a lot of people would hesitate to write a check for $170,000.”
When asked how his client was doing, Andreoff said: “Horrible. He’s devastated. Not only has his freedom been deprived, but his financial resources have been frozen. There’s nothing to support his family ... his workers.”
Andreoff said Fata is a U.S. citizen and not a flight risk.
Fata “does not own a home in Lebanon, and since 2001 only traveled to Lebanon one time … to see his ill father, who is 80 and suffers from severe heart and liver disease,” Andreoff said in a court filing. He said his client “has no foreign bank accounts or liquid assets other than those in Michigan which were seized by the government” on Tuesday.
Fata owns Michigan Hematology Oncology, which has offices in Clarkston, Bloomfield Hills, Lapeer, Sterling Heights, Troy and Oak Park. The government said the clinics billed $35 million to Medicare over two years.
Fata made about $24.3 million in drug infusion billings directly to Medicare, “more than any hematologist/oncologist in the state of Michigan during that time period,” FBI agent Brian Fairweather wrote in the criminal complaint.
The 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.

From The Detroit News: