HAMMOND | Indicted former Merrillville sinus doctor Mark Weinberger is asking a federal judge to let him walk free following a sentencing hearing slated for later this week.
In a request filed Monday in Hammond federal court, Weinberger's defense attorney Visvaldis Kupsis argued the U.S. Department of Probation is recommending his client be sentenced to between 30 and 37 months in prison, but he has already spend nearly that amount of time in prison already.
Weinberger, who has filed a guilty plea admitting to 22 counts of health care fraud, has been incarcerated for nearly 34 months awaiting a resolution of his criminal case, Kupsis argued in the Monday filing. And with a 15 percent typical "good time" credit, Weinberger would be eligible for a credit of five months off his imprisonment, Kupsis said.
"As a result, Dr. Weinberger has already served a 39-month term of incarceration, which exceeds the guideline range set forth in his pre-sentence report by two months."
In July, Weinberger filed a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that would cap his maximum prison sentence at 10 years if Judge Philip Simon accepts the plea.
However, Simon is not required to accept the plea at Weinberger's sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for Friday. And if the judge does accept the plea, he is not bound by the U.S. Department of Probation's sentencing recommendation.
Simon already has rejected a past plea agreement Weinberger brokered with prosecutors.
Weinberger initially agreed to plead guilty in October 2010 to 22 counts of health care fraud after he billed patients for surgeries he did not perform, court records show. That plea deal called for four years in prison, a term one victim called "entirely too short."
During an April 2011 hearing, Simon agreed, saying he did not think the previous plea deal took into account the full extent of Weinberger's criminal conduct.
"I simply refuse to relinquish my sentencing discretion," Simon said at the time.
Weinberger disappeared in 2004 during a family trip to Europe and remained at large until December 2009, when Italian police caught him in a mountainside encampment. A grand jury indicted him in 2006 on 22 counts of health care fraud, and three years later he was found hiding in the mountains of Italy and extradited to the United States.