Smelly sinus ploys buy nose doc’s luxury life

By James Quiggle
January 29, 2013

mark-weinberger3Mark Weinberger had a nose for money.

That figured. His sinus practice lured hundreds of anxious patients seeking his supposedly healing touch. But instead of curing them, the Chicago-area man raked in millions of dollars with a factory-line practice of worthless surgeries that carved a trail of harmed and distraught patients.

Bogus insurance billings fueled much of Weinberger’s binge.

The Ivy League-educated specialist advised nearly every patient he saw just on their first appointment to have a sinus-related surgery, whether they needed the procedure or not. Sometimes he examined up to 100 patients a day — spending all of three minutes to diagnose them for life-altering surgery.

Weinberger did hundreds of false procedures, billing insurance companies up to $40,000 or more per patient. He also billed for procedures he never performed.

Weinberger drilled holes in the back of their sinuses. But the surgery was outdated and useless. It actually worsened the problems for many, inflicting chronic sinusitis they didn’t have before Weinberger treated them.

He showed William Boyer a disturbing image seemingly of his sinus with polyps, and a sinus cavity that was bloody and infected. Boyer quickly agreed to the surgery — but the image actually portrayed someone else’s sinus.

Weinberger missed several obvious signs that Phyllis Barnes had cancer. She died, and a medical-review panel in Indiana found him negligent.

Lindsey Ponda went to Weinberger, complaining of headaches. He said the nasal drilling could cure her. Instead Ponder now suffers chronic sinusitis, and has a permanently high and dangerous heartbeat.

Those surgeries were money machines. Weinberger stole $30 million of insurance in just three years, and lived a sultan’s lifestyle.

He drove from his Chicago home to work in a chauffeur-driven limo. He owned $2.4-million townhouse condo in Chicago. It was five stories high, with an elevator.

A full staff, including a personal assistant and three maids, maintained his home. A masseuse gave him and his wife Michelle Kramer massages each night.

Weinberger also bought an 80-foot motor yacht called the Corti-Seas. It was worth about $4 million. He also dropped thousands of dollars at a time on shopping sprees.

But realizing the law finally was closing in, he set up his escape on a vacation.

Weinberger brought his wife Michelle and an entourage for a trip to the Greek islands aboard the Corti-Seas, which was docked in Mykanos. He suddenly disappeared one morning, leaving Michelle no explanation or money to get back home.

Weinberger evaded capture for five years, hiding in the Italian Alps. He cavorted with an Italian girlfriend for much of the time, but his life soon unraveled. Law enforcement found him shivering in a tent on a snowy mountainside 6,000 feet up in the Alps. His girlfriend had tipped off the police.

Various Indiana review panels found him negligent in at least 20 cases, and more cases are pending. Word spread, and soon at least 350 angry patients have sued.

A U.S. judge also handed down seven years in prison for insurance fraud. Weinberger professed remorse. "I'm sorry. I lied. I stole,” he told the court. “I betrayed a sacred trust. I have no excuse. There is no excuse.

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