'Nose Doc' back in States to face charges
PHOTO PROVIDED Members of Italy's Arma dei Carabinieri surround a man later identified as Mark Weinberger, a former sinus specialist from Merrillville who earned the moniker "The Nose Doctor." Weinberger's apprehension came more than five years after he failed to return from a family trip to Greece and left behind the Merrillville Center for Advanced Surgery LLC and Nose and Sinus Centers LL, which he operated between November 2002 and 2004.

HAMMOND | The former international fugitive once known locally as "The Nose Doctor" arrived in the United States on Thursday and is expected to go before a judge in Hammond federal court as early as Monday.

Former Merrillville-based sinus surgeon Mark S. Weinberger, 46, was to be flown from Italy to the United States sometime Thursday, 5 1/2 years after the legally besieged doctor disappeared on a family trip to Greece, a source with knowledge of the case said. U.S. marshals had planned to deliver Weinberger to the Hammond federal courthouse for his initial hearing today on 22 counts of fraud charges in a 2006 indictment, but a snowstorm Thursday on the East Coast delayed his arrival, the source said.

Federal prosecutions usually advance little at initial hearings. A magistrate judge likely would use the hearing to explain the fraud charges Weinberger faces, tell him of his constitutional rights, determine whether Weinberger is represented by a lawyer and schedule an arraignment - the hearing at which a defendant pleads guilty or not guilty.

If a prosecutor asks at an initial hearing for a suspect to be jailed before trial, the judge will schedule a detention hearing, at which the judge decides whether the defendant should be freed on bond. Acting U.S. Attorney David Capp said after Weinberger's capture he would seek detention without bond.

A federal defendant usually is held before trial at one of a few local lockups that include the Hammond City Jail, the Lake County Jail, the Porter County Jail and the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. It was unclear Thursday where Weinberger might be held before trial.

Weinberger was captured on a snow-covered Italian mountainside Dec. 15 after a guide tipped off authorities the former doctor was living in a tent with high-tech survival gear. Weinberger was taken to a hospital after he stabbed himself in the neck with a knife he had hidden while he was being arrested. U.S. authorities have worked since with Italian courts on Weinberger's extradition.

When Weinberger vanished in 2004, he left his Merrillville sinus clinic buried beneath some $7 million in outstanding debts. More than 300 civil malpractice lawsuits against Weinberger accumulated in his absence, but it was a 22-count fraud indictment issued in Hammond federal court that led to Weinberger's arrest. Federal grand jurors 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.

Federal prosecutors say Weinberger, behind 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, prosecutors say.