DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area cancer doctor accused of intentionally misdiagnosing patients and ordering unnecessary treatments will remain in jail until trial, a judge said Wednesday after prosecutors insisted he might flee to the Middle East.
Dr. Farid Fata, in custody since Aug. 6, wanted the judge to lower his $9 million bond to $500,000 and give him a chance to win release. But the decision was worse for the Oakland County man: No bond.
"Obviously there is a presumption of innocence ... but the court feels there is a serious risk of flight. The charges are serious," U.S. District Judge Paul Borman said.
Fata, a naturalized U.S. citizen whose native country is Lebanon, is charged with committing fraud to enrich himself through health insurance programs. The government says some patients were repeatedly exposed to powerful drugs despite having no cancer. Fata denies it.
Outside the courthouse, about a dozen people protested his possible release. Signs read, "Without fail Fata will jump bail" and "No bond for death doctor."
The case has angered Fata's patients and relatives of his deceased patients. They have been meeting regularly to swap stories, wondering if loved ones were victims of excessive chemotherapy or other treatments.
The government says Fata has extensive business holdings, including Michigan Hematology-Oncology, a clinic that has received more than $169 million from Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield since 2006.
Defense attorney Christopher Andreoff told the judge that Fata's assets have been seized by the government or are tied up with liens, eliminating any chance that he has enough cash to dash to Lebanon. He proposed Fata be confined to home with an electronic monitor.
Andreoff said it's also difficult to prepare for trial when Fata is being held at a federal prison in Milan, 50 miles southwest of Detroit.
"I need my client to explain the significance of all the medical records," Andreoff said.
But prosecutor Catherine Dick said there's no assurance that Fata, facing years in prison if convicted, would stay in the U.S.
"We can't be sure how much money he has out there," she said.
Borman set a Feb. 4 trial date, but that could change after an update on the case scheduled for December.
On the sidewalk outside of the courthouse, Michelle Mannarino held a sign with a picture of her late mother, Joan Donohue, 76, and the message, "I trusted him once with her life."
Mannarino said Fata insisted on months of chemotherapy even after her mother's breast cancer was in remission. Donohue died of kidney failure in 2010.
"I believe we'd still have her today," Mannarino said in an interview.
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