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Nose doctor pleads guilty

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A doctor who fled to Italy late last year to avoid prosecution for insurance fraud pleaded guilty in federal court today.

Dr. Mark Weinberger, 47, pleaded guilty to 22 counts of defrauding health insurance companies. Federal prosecutors said Weinberger billed those companies of nearly two dozen patients for surgical procedures he didn’t do. Weinberger appeared this morning before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Philip Simon. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 21.

Weinberger, who lived in Chicago, could face up to a decade in prison and a $250,000 fine. But the deal worked out with prosecutors could limit Weinberger’s prison time to four years if the deal is accepted by Simon. Under the deal Weinberger is also required to forward any profits made from a book deal or movie rights to go toward his restitution.

Weinberger operated an ear, nose and throat practice for several years in Merrillville, Ind., about 40 miles southeast of Chicago, before fleeing the country in 2005. He went missing following a trip to Greece, leaving his wife behind and allegedly bilking his father out of a million dollars.

Last December, the graduate of the UCLA Medical School was arrested on a snowy mountain in northern Italy as he hid in a tent. Before being taken into custody, Weinberger stabbed himself in the neck and had to be hospitalized for several days in Italy.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Racketeering and Fraud Investigation investigated the case.

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