Merrillville doctor arrested in Italy

December 18, 2009 4:48:30 AM PST
After five years on the run, a fugitive doctor from Merrillville, Ind., has been captured in Italy.Italian police found Dr. Mark Weinberger living in a tent on Mount Blanc.

Mark Weinberger disappeared in 2004 while vacationing in Greece with his wife.

Weinberger is accused of falsely billing insurance companies for surgeries he never performed. He had a practice in Merrillville, Indiana and was arrested while camping on a mountain in northern Italy.

On Thursday night, Mark Weinberger was under arrest at hospital in Turin, Italy with neck injuries after police say he tried to commit suicide with a box cutter that he had hidden in his rectum.

Police say he could have been anywhere after he acquired private jets, yachts and vacation properties. Investigators traced him through Monaco, China and France and finally found him in Italy.

According to authorities, Dr. Mark Weinberger had been hiding out at the base of a glacier at the foot of Mont Blanc in northern Italy. Investigators say Weinberger's whereabouts in Italy can be traced back to August when Weinberger stopped paying rent on an apartment in Courmayer and disappeared.

Dr. Weinberger was last seen in 2004 before he vanished while on vacation with his wife in Greece. She learned that he had purchased diamonds before leaving, withdrew a large sum of money from his business, and had taken survival gear that he kept in Indiana clinic.

"I think he was running from malpractice lawsuits?I think he always wanted to be perfect. And this was an insult to his striving for perfection," said Michelle Kramer, former wife.

Dr. Weinberger was known as the 'nose doctor,' named for his specialty in surgery. The otolaryngologist lived a lavish lifestyle with luxury homes in northwest Indiana and Chicago.police say his business took in more than $3 million a year. But authorities say he earned that money after he over charged patients and Medicare for unnecessary surgeries and services not rendered.

"The reality is Dr. Weinberger was a fraud," said Kenneth Allen, fraud victim's attorney.

Weinberger was the subject of a federal investigation. He was indicted by a grand jury after he was charged with 22 counts of health care fraud. He was the focus of hundreds of civil lawsuits that alleged malpractice.

In one case the scheme resulted in death. In September of 2004, Dr. Weinberger operated on Phyllis Barnes to remove nasal polyps when in fact she had advanced cancer. Five days later she died.

"We have all suffered because of his not being able to be held accountable or be brought to justice. It feels really good," said Phyllis Hood, Barnes' sister.

"We want him, Weinberger, to look these people in the eye and explain why he did this and why he ran," said Allen.

Police think that Weinberger may have been on his way to Switzerland when he was caught. He was released from the hospital and taken to the detainee section of the facility.

Investigators say they believe Weinberger was trying to make his way to Switzerland. Prosecutors are working to get him back in this country to face charges. The extradition process could take more than a year.


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