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An international dragnet is under way to arrest a Merrillville sinus doctor who stands accused of fraud and malpractice in hundreds of civil lawsuits across Northwest Indiana, federal authorities said.

Mark Weinberger, 43, was criminally indicted by a federal grand jury Friday in Hammond for allegedly concocting a scheme to over bill insurance companies for procedures that were not needed and sometimes not even performed.

Weinberger's sinus clinics, Merrillville Center for Advanced Surgery LLC and Nose and Sinus Centers LLC, were liquidated after Weinberger went missing two years ago during a family trip to Greece.

Although more than 300 people have sued Weinberger for fraud and malpractice, those civil cases don't carry the power to have Weinberger located and extradited by Interpol. Friday's criminal indictment does.

"It is good news for us because this is what we've been after since the beginning," said Merrillville attorney Ken Allen, who is representing more than 50 of the Weinberger litigants.

Merrillville attorney Barry Rooth, who has 288 cases pending against Weinberger, said he did not believe the civil cases would be put on hold if Weinberger is caught and charged criminally.

"The indictment does not affect our client's civil cases, where we are alleging that he performed unnecessary surgeries and he performed such surgeries negligently," Rooth said. "We intend to proceed whether or not he's found."

Allen said Weinberger told all of his clients they had the same condition: nasal polyps and a deviated septum. He would put them under anesthesia for less than a hour and then bill insurance companies as if he had removed polyps from eight nasal cavities, authorities allege.

In at least one case, the scheme resulted in death as Weinberger treated a Valparaiso woman for sinus problems, instead of discovering her advanced throat cancer, Allen said. The delay cost the woman her life, Allen said.

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