Dr. Farid Fata recently pled guilty to 16 Federal criminal counts including 13 counts of healthcare fraud, two counts of money laundering and one count of receiving kickbacks. In a disturbingly unusual case involving a doctor fraudulently submitting requests for reimbursement from several healthcare organizations, Dr. Farid Fata went so far as to knowingly misdiagnose several patients with cancer and subsequently ordering that they receive cancer treatments, including chemotherapy. In doing this he was able to bilk several healthcare organizations out of a ton of money to his benefit. In spite of only 10 patients being named in the indictment, US Attorney Barb McQuade believes there to be many more patients affected and misdiagnosed in a similar capacity. At least one patient died while under the care of Dr. Fata though a murder charge is unlikely at this time.
While the admission by Dr. Farid Fata that he knowingly administered chemotherapy to those not in need of it is no doubt disgusting, US Attorney Barb McQuade’s effort to earn a life sentence on Dr. Fata could fall short. Healthcare fraud, as charged under 18 USC 1347 typically carries with it a 10 year maximum penalty unless serious bodily injury occurred as defined in 18 USC 1365(h)(3). An issue will be whether improperly administering chemotherapy, which is poison, involved a substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain or a protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty. In spite of the maximum penalty, sentencing guideline 2B1.1, amongst others, dictates aggravating factors that could drive the guidelines to a level suggesting more time be served than a statutory maximum. If the guidelines suggest a higher sentence than allowed by a statutory maximum on a singular count, the court can run the sentences for multiple counts consecutively, “but only to the extent necessary to produce a combined sentence equal to the total punishment.”
The United States will argue that the maximum sentence for the most serious count (healthcare fraud), whether it is found to be 10 or 20 years, is inadequate pursuant to what they hope the guidelines will suggest. Based upon US sentencing guideline 2B1.1 being based primarily on monetary loss, because Dr. Fata’s indictment lists an amount of loss exceeding $200,000,000, the United States will be off to a good start at least in guideline terms. Add other potential aggravators and they may get where they want to go. If the threshold charge returns a recommended sentence exceeding the statutory maximum, they will then ask the court to add the sentence on other counts to the threshold count to achieve what they deem to be appropriate under the guidelines. Dr. Fata’s federal criminal lawyer will argue first that the guideline sentence shouldn’t exceed the statutory maximum. That may prove difficult based upon total loss factor of the guidelines. Dr. Fata’s lawyer could argue that even if the suggested guideline sentence exceeds the statutory maximum, it does not justify a life sentence considering applicable departures and variances, namely the three level departure for acceptance of responsibility, and as such a life sentence is inappropriate as under sentencing guideline 5G1.2(d) sentences should run consecutive “only to the extent necessary to produce a combined sentence equal to the total punishment.” While Dr. Fata could be looking at certain counts running consecutive to a threshold count, assuming he is a criminal history category 1, he may not technically score a life sentence.
Regardless of the sentence imposed, this is a nauseating case involving a fraud committed by an individual whose profession is predicated on rendering an honest opinion and assessment of symptoms in an effort to seek the best interest of his patients. Whether Dr. Fata’s sentence is life or anything less, it is certain to be very long and he will most certainly spend the better part of his latter years in a federal prison. If you’ve been charged with a Federal crime, contact Tampa Federal criminal lawyer Jason Mayberry today. We’re available for a free consultation at 813-444-7435 or at 727-771-3847.