Weinberger wants to be sentenced to time served
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com October 8, 2012 10:58AM
Police mugshot of Mark Steven Weinberger.| Archive~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 8, 2012 7:51PM
If former Merrillville nose doctor Mark Weinberger gets his way at his sentencing hearing Friday, his days in prison, including his time cooking, mentoring and teaching yoga, could be over.
Weinberger, who pleaded guilty this summer to 22 counts of health care fraud, argues in a sentencing memorandum filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond that he has already spent 34 months in prison, which falls in the middle of the suggested guideline range of 30 to 37 months.
The memorandum argues that Weinberger would also normally be given a 15 percent reduction for good behavior, meaning he has actually fulfilled a 39-month sentence, two months longer than what the guideline range calls for.
Friday’s sentencing hearing should wrap up a six-year criminal case against Weinberger, who was charged in 2006 with billing insurance companies for surgeries he never performed. The government has argued that in some cases he did nothing more than place patients under anesthesia.
His case was frozen for three years, however, because he fled the country in 2004 after clients started filing malpractice cases against him. The case, which garnered national media attention, didn’t move forward until December 2009 when Italian police arrested him camping at the base of a mountain by the country’s northern border with Switzerland.
Weinberger initially pleaded guilty to the counts in 2010, with a plea agreement that bound U.S. District Judge Philip Simon to sentence him to four years in prison. However, Simon rejected the plea agreement in 2011, saying he was concerned about information he received from Anthem Insurance about another 56 cases of fraudulent billing by Weinberger.
The second plea agreement sets a binding cap of a 10-year sentence and lets Weinberger argue for this proposed sentence.
Weinberger’s attorney, Visvaldis Kupsis, says in the sentencing memorandum that Anthem has never provided any evidence on those cases to prove they were false.
“It has not been able to substantiate aforesaid claims and at least some of the evidence produced confirms that Dr. Weinberger did perform the surgeries for which he billed,” the memorandum says.
It also states that the guidelines already take into account the loss amount of $318,000 and the number of victims, 22.
Weinberger also will not be able to commit the crime again, the memo claims, because he has agreed to give up his medical license as part of his plea agreement.
If Judge Simon grants Weinberger’s request, it could mean he will be released from prison soon, if not immediately. Kupsis says in the filing that Weinberger has been an active prisoner, helping other inmates improve themselves while holding a steady job himself.
Weinberger volunteered as a kitchen orderly when he was taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago in March 2010 and soon moved up to a cook.
“Dr. 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,” the filing says.
Weinberger has also mentored and tutored other prisoners to help them earn their GEDs and teaches yoga five days a week to more than 100 prisoners.
Even if Simon rejects Weinberger’s arguments, it is unlikely he would serve much more time in prison under the federal government’s request for about four years. With the 15 percent credit for good behavior, he would likely remain in prison for just 41 months, or another seven months, if he also receives credit for time served.