Mark Weinberger, the former Merrillville doctor captured on an Italian mountainside in December, likely will be extradited to the United States in the next few days to face fraud charges in Hammond federal court, Italian officials said Thursday.
On Thursday, a court in Turin, Italy, sent documents to the U.S. State Department asking authorities to come to Italy and take Weinberger, said Ernesto di Carlo, an official of the Italian court. Weinberger, 46, formerly known as "The Nose Doctor," didn't fight the U.S. extradition request, and the Italian court approved it last month.
If both governments agree on the extradition, U.S. marshals would take custody of Weinberger and return him to Hammond to face the federal criminal charges, acting U.S. Attorney David Capp said.
"Ultimately, U.S. marshals would literally go and pick him up," Capp said.
Weinberger remains in the prison ward of Turin's Molinette hospital, where he was taken after stabbing himself in the neck as he was taken into custody.
Weinberger was missing for more than five years after he didn't return from a family trip to Greece.
He faces a mountain of legal trouble in Northwest Indiana. Weinberger was indicted by a federal grand jury in Hammond in 2006 on 22 counts of fraud. Federal prosecutors claim Weinberger, under the ruse of performing costly sinus surgery, would put clients under anesthesia and not perform surgery. He then would bill insurance companies for the expensive procedures, an indictment states.
No attorney is listed in the online federal courts database as representing Weinberger against the criminal charges.
The criminal charges are the driving force behind his potential extradition, but he also faces about 300 civil lawsuits filed by former patients.
Hammond federal authorities in late December filed an affidavit in support of the extradition request. The affidavit details evidence prosecutors would use to establish that Weinberger billed health insurance companies for operations that were not needed or were never performed. Prosecutors would present patient files, billing records and testimony from 22 patients, according to the affidavit signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane L. Berkowitz.
Weinberger was discovered in Italy after a mountain guide told authorities of a man living in a tent with high-tech mountain survival gear. Police in the nearby town of Aosta said Thursday they initially feared the man might be a terrorist.
"It was the first thought that came into our head, but it lasted only an hour," said Col. Guido Di Vita, of the Carabinieri paramilitary police. "We thought: What is this guy doing on the mountain? Is he a terrorist?"