DETROIT, MI (NBC) – A Michigan oncologist who inflicted excessive and painful cancer treatments on hundreds of patients – many of whom didn’t have the disease in the first place – sobbed as he was sentenced Friday to spend what will likely be the rest of his life in prison, capping an emotional week in which a procession of anguished victims told a federal judge how the scams had ruined their lives.

Farid Fata, who operated the racket from an empire of upscale clinics in the Detroit suburbs, began weeping before the punishment was even handed down, as his defense lawyer told the judge that he would likely die behind bars.

Then Fata spoke for the first time in public since his August 2013 arrest, his tear-choked words often unintelligible before an overflow audience in a Detroit federal courtroom.

Fata blamed greed and a “self-destructive” thirst for power. “They came to me seeking compassion and care. I failed them,” he told U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, barely able to maintain his composure. He then turned to the families of his victims and apologized, which he admitted wasn’t enough. “My sins are many,” he said.

He asked Borman for mercy. Then a prosecutor reminded the judge of the victims’ “lifetime of suffering.” And the judge, calling Fata’s crimes “huge” and “horrific,” then sentenced Fata to 45 years behind bars.

By then, Fata’s tears were gone, and he appeared emotionless, staring ahead.

His victims, many of whom wore bright yellow to the sentencing to symbolize the last day Fata would see the sun, remained quiet in the courtroom, saving their reaction for after the hearing.

Fata, 50, who is married with children, pleaded guilty in September to an array of criminal charges, including health care fraud, money laundering and seeking kickbacks. In court papers, prosecutors said he scammed more than 500 patients, telling some they had cancer when they did not, giving too much or improper treatment to those who did, and persisting with painful and dangerous chemotherapy treatments who no longer needed it.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 175 years in prison, likening Fata to a medical version of convicted Ponzi scammer Bernard Madoff and accusing him of bullying patients into dangerous treatments that underwrote an opulent lifestyle.

About two dozen of them took the stand in court this week to testify about how Fata had stolen their health, money and trust. They spoke of the fear of dying, and of unneeded chemotherapy wracking their bodies and leaving chronic health problems. One woman recalled learning of her misdiagnosis after her leg snapped in half.

Some have filed a civil suit, hoping that it will draw out more information about the case, including including why Fata’s practices did not come to light sooner.

Federal authorities were alerted to the situation through a whistle-blower suit filed by the doctor’s office manager, George Karadsheh, who said he started digging as soon as he heard disturbing things about misdiagnosis and overtreatment.