If freshly caught former Merrillville doctor Mark Weinberger is extradited from Italy to the United States, he will face squadrons of legal adversaries, from criminal prosecutors who aim to see him punished for his alleged frauds to hundreds of civil litigants who seek compensation for his alleged malpractice.
Hammond-based federal prosecutors had started Thursday on the flood of paperwork required to request the extradition of Weinberger, who has been missing since 2004, acting U.S. Attorney David Capp said.
The local paperwork will take another 10 days, and extradition proceedings can take more than a year, Capp said.
"We've got to do a lot of paperwork in terms of describing the indictment and the nature of the charges," Capp said. "There's just a host of different forms, then all of that needs to be translated into Italian, then the Office of International Affairs submits certified copies in English and Italian to the authorities."
It was a 22-count fraud indictment issued in Hammond federal court that led to Weinberger's arrest by Italian police Tuesday while he camped at the foot of a snow-covered mountain near the Swiss border. Weinberger was missing, awash in debts and subject to many civil lawsuits when the federal grand jury indicted him in December 2006 on charges he billed insurance companies for procedures he didn't perform. An arrest warrant was issued with the indictment.
If Weinberger is extradited, he will face an initial appearance in Hammond federal court, followed by an arraignment -- at which he will enter his plea to the charges -- and a detention hearing to determine if he can go free before trial. Capp said he would seek detention without bond for Weinberger. Defendants frequently are detained before trial because judges suspect they will flee if released.
On the civil side, local personal injury lawyer Kenneth J. Allen said his clients want to see Weinberger returned to the U.S. so he can be "held accountable for the harms that he's caused."
Allen represents dozens of people who have sued Weinberger in Lake County court over alleged incidents of malpractice at the doctor's former office in Merrillville. Allen said Thursday morning he expects the man who called himself "The Nose Doctor" will be extradited. Allen hopes Weinberger will have to face hundreds of civil cases that have been slowed by his absence.
"It's good news," Allen said.
"Really all along, all we have wanted was for this man to face justice. That's all we ever asked for. We're thankful to Interpol and the FBI."
Allen filed about 50 of the cases against Weinberger, while Merrillville-based lawyer Barry Rooth filed almost 300 lawsuits. All of those lawsuits are still pending, Allen and Rooth said. Allen said his lawsuits have been hung up without Weinberger in-country.
"It gives the defense lawyers a big excuse not to proceed forward. Now that excuse will be taken away, and we should be able to bring him to justice," Allen said.
Rooth said his tack on the cases has never depended on Weinberger's presence.
"We're pleased that he's been apprehended," Rooth said.
"Regardless of what happens, we intend to proceed as we have -- aggressively."
One of Allen's clients won a malpractice judgment from a state panel in March against the doctor. Allen has said he hopes to win the family of Phyllis Barnes a monetary court judgment capped at $1.25 million. Barnes, 50, of Valparaiso, died after her cancer was misdiagnosed by Weinberger as a sinus condition, Allen claims.
Allen said he looks forward to "having this man face the families that he harmed."
"We're never going to be able to replace the lives that he took or the lives that he's harmed, but we do want him to be accountable," Allen said.