U.S. Judge Philip Simon in the Northern District of Indiana rejected a plea agreement on April 27 for former physician Mark Weinberger, who faces at least 22 criminal counts of billing insurers and patients for procedures he didn’t perform.
The District’s chief judge set aside the plea agreement that would have bound him to sentence the doctor to four years in prison, rather than a sentence coming closer to the maximum on all charges totaling more than 200 years. Judge Simon said he wasn’t confident the deal took into full account the scope of the criminal conduct Weinberger engaged in, which prosecutors say totals about $318,000 in damages.
Weinberger is accused of billing fraud that took place between November 2002 and September 2004, while he was running the Merrillville Center for Advanced Surgery LLC and Nose and Sinus Center LLC. Some concerns about potential malpractice began surfacing toward the end of that period when one patient died in September 2004. Days later, the doctor disappeared during a family trip to Greece, and he was on the run for more than five years.
Claims from former patients mounted and the sinus specialist was featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted.” He was eventually found hiding in a tent about 6,000 feet above sea level in the Italian Alps. He stabbed himself in the neck with a knife before finally being extradited from Italy to the United States on federal criminal health care fraud charges in December 2009.
While he faced 22 federal criminal counts of billing fraud, Weinberger has also been battling hundreds of medical malpractice claims filed against him and $5.7 million in creditor claims.
Federal court docket records show that many of Weinberger’s former patients urged Judge Simon to reject the plea deal they described as being too lenient.
A status hearing is set for May 12.