Former Merrillville ear, nose and throat doctor Mark Weinberger on Monday asked a federal court to sentence him to time served for the 22 counts of health care fraud to which he pleaded guilty.
Chief Judge Philip Simon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond will sentence Weinberger on Friday. In a sentencing memorandum filed Monday, Weinberger’s attorney Visvaldis Kupsis said the sentencing guideline range is 30 to 37 months in prison. Weinberger already has served more than 33 months, and adjusted for good behavior, he’s earned credit for 39 months served, Kupsis wrote.
Previously, Weinberger pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to serve a four-year sentence. A federal judge rejected that plea agreement as too lenient.
Weinberger, who ran a multi-million-dollar practice billing himself as “The Nose Doctor,” was arrested in December 2009 after authorities found him camped in snow in the Italian Alps. He fled as malpractice claims mounted and had been on the run for more than three years, during which he was charged.
Separately, Weinberger also is a defendant in lawsuits involving more than 350 medical malpractice claims that allege he performed unnecessary and sometimes damaging sinus surgeries.
The sentencing memorandum says there’s no evidence that Weinberger committed fraud other than in the instances for which he was charged, and it casts doubt on other claims against him.
“Much has been made in the press regarding Dr. Weinberger’s case and his notoriety exceeds that of most criminal defendants. Numerous civil complaints have been filed and one could speculate that many of those are a direct result of that notoriety,” Kupsis wrote. “Regardless, Dr. Weinberger has also been punished for any incidence of negligence through monetary judgments, as well as his loss of practice and inability to further engage in the trade for which he was trained. As a result, these alleged deeds carry their own form of punishment and should not be for the court to decide in this criminal forum.”
Last month, U.S. Judge Jon E. DeGuilio in Hammond entered a default judgment against Weinberger and related entities for noncooperation in the medical malpractice litigation.
Weinberger’s medical malpractice carrier, the Medical Assurance Company Inc., sought discovery sanctions against Weinberger for his constant refusal to answer questions during deposition. Weinberger repeatedly asserted the Fifth Amendment to all 344 questions, including those about his background and education. After a warning in 2011 from the court that refusal to provide substantive responses would result in severe sanctions, Weinberger and defendants said they would cooperate. However, the defendants continued to assert the Fifth Amendment to the amended discovery responses. The defendants claimed they would answer questions after Weinberger’s criminal trial wrapped up.
In his sentencing memorandum, Kupsis writes that Weinberger worked his way up from kitchen orderly to cook at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. The document also shed light on Weinberger’s life behind bars.
“Weinberger has taken some pride in being able to continuously hold down a job which subjects itself to the potential for derision from inmates as well as presents a challenge to prepare satisfactory meals with limited resources and time. His responsibilities include organizing and serving every meal … to the eighty-eight (88) fellow inmates in his unit.
Kupsis characterized Weinberger’s kitchen orderly duty as one that “must have been a humiliating situation for him.”
The memorandum also says Weinberger has tutored inmates studying for GEDs and introduced a yoga program. He also “developed a curriculum through the religious services program which teaches philosophies of non-violence and alternative solutions to problems.”