A former doctor found guilty of medical malpractice could face 200 years in prison after a judge on Wednesday rejected his plea agreement.
In 2010, Dr. Mark Weinberger pleaded guilty to 22 counts of health care fraud for charges of billing patients for nose surgeries he never performed. Weinberger pleaded guilty in exchange for a four-year prison sentence, should the judge accept the plea.
District Judge Phillip Simon said Tuesday he didn't think the case was limited to 22 counts and that insurance company records identify at least 53 other patients who were billed for nose surgeries.
"I do not have a confidence level that the plea agreement takes in the scope of the incident," Simon said.
Weinberger now potentially faces a full criminal trial, but he may seek another plea agreement before then. A status hearing is expected in 30 days.
"I'm sure the citizens who sit on the criminal jury will do their job and convict him on all 22 counts so he doesn't have the opportunity to treat his patients like paychecks and never practice medicine again," said Kenneth J. Allen, attorney for many of Weinberger's patients.
A Lake County, Ind., jury last month found Weinberger guilty and awarded a victim's family more than $13 million in damages.
A civil suit alleged that Dr. Mark Weinberger failed to diagnose Phyllis Barnes' lung cancer and instead treated her for other ailments in an intentional money making scheme. The defense team tried unsuccessfully to convince the jury that the oversight wasn't intentional and that some cancers are difficult to detect.
"I don't know if anyone will ever know how many people he did hurt and how many families he brought such harm to," said Peggy Hood, Barnes' sister.
"He looks so beaten down, and I feel good seeing him this way," Hood said of Weinberger. "It just feels good to know he's not going to get out anytime in the foreseeable future."
Weinberger also faces more than 350 medical malpractice suits in Indiana, as well as a federal lawsuit filed by his malpractice insurance provider. The company contends Weinberger breached his contract when he fled the country, becoming an international fugitive.
Weinberger's ex-wife Michelle Kramer, whom he left weeks after she miscarried their child, said a potential full trial is good news.
"Doing Vanity Fair and Oprah was worth it if it pressured the judge at all," she told NBC Chicago via text. "This feels good."