A judge on Friday rejected former Merrillville "nose doctor" Mark Weinberger’s request to be released from federal prison for time served and instead ordered him to spend almost another four years behind bars for fraud.
Chief Judge Philip Simon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana in Hammond sentenced Weinberger to seven years in prison for 22 counts of health care benefit fraud to which Weinberger, 49, pleaded guilty. Weinberger already has spent about 37 months in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.
The sentence exceeded the 37 to 46 months called for in federal sentencing guidelines, but Simon also considered Weinberger’s flight from the country as an enhancement, according to attorneys who were in court for the sentencing. The former ear, nose and throat doctor spent more than five years on the run after malpractice claims against him began to mount.
“I think that the judge considered the most important factor and that is something I’ve been living with for eight or nine years, and that is the mess he left in his wake,” said Cohen & Malad attorney David Cutshaw, who is part of a team of litigators representing 288 Weinberger malpractice clients.
Weinberger also will serve two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay about $108,000 in restitution.
Attorneys representing medical malpractice claims against Weinberger on Tuesday submitted a letter to the court that challenged claims in his sentencing memorandum in which he asked the court to be released for time served, as it fell within sentencing guidelines. The memorandum said “no credible evidence exists to indicate that Dr. Weinberger performed fraud in any other case other than the 22 cases for which he has been indicted and for which he had pled guilty.”
The letter in response said that assertion caused “great concern” because “of the 90 cases we have submitted to medical review panels, including the seven we have tried, we have yet to identify a single case in which Weinberger performed the ethmoid and sphenoid surgeries he billed for.”
Barry Rooth of Theodoros & Rooth P.C. in Merrillville, which also is involved in the bulk of malpractice litigation, said the letter aimed to give voice to victims whose cases weren’t considered in Weinberger’s criminal case.
“Our intent was to provide the prosecutor and the U.S. attorney with additional materials which we believe would increase the economic loss of similarly situated patients to a number that would constitute (sentence) enhancement,” Rooth said before sentencing Friday.
There are more than 350 medical malpractice claims against Weinberger, and his insurer recently won a default judgment against him because he has refused to answer questions in depositions. A federal judge is considering a request from the Indiana Patient Compensation Fund that a special master be appointed to handle the pool of Weinberger claims.
Rooth said patients would like to hear Weinberger at least acknowledge in depositions that he was their doctor, and he has vowed as a condition of his sentencing to answer questions about the cases against him.
“We’d love to hear what he has to say for himself,” Rooth said.