National

Fugitive doctor found living in a tent in Italy

INDIANAPOLIS — Mark Weinberger had a one-size-fits-all practice, lawyers say.

When patients who saw his billboards promising to cure sinus problems came to his plush Indiana office, he told them they required extensive, expensive surgery. But that's not what they got, they say.

Now, hundreds of patients are hoping that Weinberger's arrest this week on an Italian mountain after he disappeared while on a European vacation five years ago will mean their lawsuits claiming the doctor misdiagnosed them, botched surgeries or hastily performed the wrong procedures can finally get their day in court.

One such patient was Amy Verhoeve, 32, who went to Weinberger's Merrillville offices suffering from minor sinus complaints and was told she needed surgery, said Leslie Gibson, an Indianapolis attorney whose law firm represents Verhoeve and other ex-patients. After the surgery, problems persisted and she went to another specialist who told her that nothing she had been billed for had been done, Gibson said.

To make matters worse, the surgery had caused a hole in her septum that required corrective surgery, her lawyer said.

"He would tell them that they needed surgery on all of their sinuses," Gibson said. Instead, "He almost always drilled holes in their sinuses in the wrong place and didn't do anything else.

"It would almost be better if he'd put them under and didn't do anything," she said. "At least then he wouldn't have mutilated them."

Weinberger's long ordeal ended this week on a mountain in northern Italy when he was arrested in Val Ferret, authorities in the tiny town of Aosta said. A mountain guide tipped off authorities that he was there, living in a tent, police official Guido Di Vita said.

Another guide who helped police find Weinberger, 46, said Friday that he had noticed ski traces and followed them until they saw a man standing outside a tent near a cliff. He said it was strange to see someone camping in the area during this time of year because temperatures are below zero.

The guide, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said Weinberger appeared confused when the police approached him and didn't seem to understand Italian well.

As he was taken into custody, he stabbed himself in the neck, officials said. He was being treated in the prison ward at Molinette hospital in Turin on Friday, where his wounds were not considered life-threatening, hospital officials said.

It wasn't clear how long Weinberger had been in Italy, or if he had retained an attorney there.

The mystery surrounding Weinberger, who was known as the "Nose Doctor," began when he disappeared while traveling with his wife in Greece in 2004. He was the subject of an international dragnet and his case was featured on "America's Most Wanted" as recently as August.

  Comments