|By Andy Grimm, Chicago Tribune|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But as federal investigators began looking into his clinic and the first of what would become more than 350 former patients who filed lawsuits claiming Weinberger performed unnecessary surgeries, Weinberger disappeared from his 80-foot yacht off the coast of
"(Patients) go to the doctor believing he has their best interests at heart and instead find the doctor is using the patients as, essentially, an ATM," Simon said.
The 84-month sentence was nearly double the federal guidelines for the 22 counts for which Weinberger was charged. With credit for good behavior and alcohol rehabilitation, Weinberger could spend about as much time behind bars as he did in hiding in
His father and brother and a few patients and staff were the only ones to write letters supporting Weinberger.
His father also had filed a claim against Weinberger's bankrupt clinic, trying to recover
"I'm sorry. I lied. I stole. I betrayed a sacred trust. I have no excuse. There is no excuse," said Weinberger, the words coming out haltingly. "I let so many people down. ... My behavior was bizarre. It was outrageous. It was stupid."
Weinberger's face was furrowed with concern throughout the hearing as he rocked in his seat and fidgeted.
His expression only lightened as his court-appointed attorney,
Weinberger's plea agreement with prosecutors capped his possible sentence at 10 years.
"Eighty-four months? I'll take it," Boyer said outside the courtroom. "I haven't seen a cent yet."
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