Doctor jailed for using patients as his personal cash machine

Mark Weinberger with his wife on vacation 
By: Eva Fett 

A doctor was jailed after he was accused of using his patients as his personal cash machine, according to court records.

The former Indiana surgeon, who was arrested on a snowy mountain after five years on the run in Italy as a fugitive, was handed a stiff prison sentence on Friday, for billing insurers and patients for procedures he did not perform, with the federal judge saying he used patients as an ATM.

Mark Weinberger was given a prison sentence of seven years, almost twice the recommended term under federal sentencing guidelines.

U.S. District Judge Philip Simon said that the severe sentence was necessary because Weinberger, who disappeared just before being charged, left a network of claims and 401 (k) issues for his 40 employees, and health problems for patients in his nose and sinus clinic.

"The impact of this is huge," the judge said, noting that hundreds of patients were unable to access their medical records after Weinberger fled while on holiday in Greece.

"I'm sure he knew at that moment that his world was collapsing around him," Simon said. "Instead of dealing with this collapse, he fled from it," the judge added.

Simon also said that Weinberger ran his medical practice as a factory, saying that he moved through volume of patients to gain more than $30 million in the three years before fleeing.

The judge sentenced Weinberger after rejecting a plea deal that called for a prison term of four years, saying he was not sure it took into account the magnitude of the crimes.

Weinberger pleaded guilty in July to 22 counts of health care fraud under a plea agreement that called for no more than 10 years in prison. However, the normal recommended sentencing guidelines called for three to four years in prison.