Sunday, October 14, 2012

A runaway Jewish doctor has been jailed for seven years for massive health care fraud

A former Indiana surgeon arrested on a snowy Italian mountainside after five years on the run was handed a stiff prison term for billing insurers and patients for procedures he didn’t perform, with the federal judge saying that he used patients like an ATM machine. Mark Weinberger was given a seven-year prison term, nearly double the recommendation under federal sentencing guidelines. US District Judge Philip Simon said that the more severe sentence was necessary because Weinberger — who disappeared just before he was charged — left a web of lawsuits, 401(k) problems for his 40 employees and health issues for patients at his nose and sinus clinic. “The fallout from this is enormous,” the judge said, noting that hundreds of patients couldn’t access their medical records after Weinberger fled while vacationing in Greece. “I am very certain he knew at the time his world was collapsing around him,” Simon said. “Instead of addressing this collapsing, he fled from it.” Simon also said that Weinberger ran his medical office like a “factory,” saying that he moved patients through in volume so he could earn more than $30 million in the three years before he fled. The judge sentenced Weinberger nearly 18 months after rejecting a plea deal that called for a four-year prison sentence, saying that he wasn’t confident it took into account the magnitude of the crimes. Weinberger pleaded guilty in July 2012 to 22 counts of health care fraud under a plea deal that called for no more than of 10 years in prison. However, normal recommended sentencing guidelines called for between three and four years in prison. Weinberger has already spent nearly three years behind bars. He was arrested in December 2009 in Italy on a snowy mountainside, where authorities said he had been living in a tent. He stabbed himself in the neck while being taken into custody and spent time recovering in a hospital before being returned to the United States.

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