tv Dateline Extra MSNBC May 11, 2019 9:00pm-11:00pm PDT
>> it was a whirlwind romance. >> he professed his love in a poem. >> and a wonderful life. there was the mansion in chicago. the yacht in the mediterranean, and vacations anywhere they wanted to go. >> you look beautiful. you look really, really beautiful. >> a successful surgeon, his practice pulling in a staggering million dollars a month. >> he would go on these spending sprees. he had three drivers on call. >> but then on one of those
exotic trips together, the doctor disappeared. >> was there a note of any kind? >> nothing. >> leaving behind his wife, his yacht, and some very angry people. >> he is a very evil person. >> what had he done? >> that was the worst night of my life. >> and what could his wife do now? >> i think he bought about maybe $500,000 worth of diamonds before he left. >> where did the diamonds go? >> with him i suppose. >> who was this wealthy man of mystery now living in the italian alps? >> i don't think they have any idea what's going to happen. >> the great escape. hello and welcome to "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. dr. mike weinberger seemed to have it all. a thriving medical practice, a strong marriage, and the globe trotting lifestyle. but the successful surgeon was hiding a secret from his medical staff and his adoring wife. there was a malpractice suit and a death, then the doctor vanished, sparking an
international manhunt and a family's fight for justice. >> it had all the makings of a perfect fantasy. the perfect husband away with his perfect wife for her 30th birthday in the picture perfect greek isles. the weather was perfect. the accommodations aboard their private, fully staffed 80-foot yacht perfect. it was late september, 2004. with her mother and a few close girlfriends along to help the golden couple celebrate, michelle weinberger had every reason to believe she was living a perfectly charmed life with the man of her dreams. then as if suddenly doused with cold water, her dream ended. >> when i woke up in the morning at 7:00 a.m. with a horrible feeling in my stomach, he wasn't there next to me and i put my hand on his side of the bed and i remember feeling it empty. >> michelle says she darted from
the bed and ran around the boat, calling for her husband, mark. no answer. >> the captain told me that he went jogging. so i started jogging all up and down mikenos looking for him. i just had this horrible feeling, which continued for the rest of the day. >> there was plenty of time to think in those anxious hours. was he dead? injured? kidnapped? was their guilded lifestyle about to end in tragedy? >> i really believed he was my soulmate and he believed that, too, and he was just the kindest, most gentle man i had ever met. >> really a prince charming. >> absolutely. >> the night before he vanished mark had seemed so happy posing for a dinner time picture with michelle and a friend. now he was gone. by mid afternoon michelle was a frantic ball of nerves, clearly, mark was not out jogging as the yacht's captain had told her
earlier that morning. so she demanded answers. >> the captain finally said i'm just going to tell you where he is now because you are on the brink of a nervous breakdown. i just want you to know that he bought some kind of present for you in town and he took a jet to paris to finish the present and he's going to come back by the end of the day before the sun goes down. >> that story didn't surprise michelle. for the past few days mark had been acting like a man who was planning something big. >> he was always running and doing something and i was kind of like, you know, this is our vacation, our time to spend together. i would rather not have some big fabulous present and just have you lay with me by the pool and not be sneaking around. >> what did he say? >> he said, you never want to trust me about surprises. you really need to trust me. this is going to be huge. >> if michelle knew anything about her husband, it was that he was a born romantic who went all out for special occasions.
it had only been five years since fate had brought mark weinberger into her life changing it in ways unimaginable at the time. it all began with a ladies night out at a chicago bar. >> i saw him at a bar. he was out with his friend who had recently gotten divorced and we just started talking and we hit it off. i thought he was really intriguing. >> she was michelle kraemer back then, a 25-year-old college student from a blue collar family still living with her folks. mark weinberger, 11 years older, was already a very successful ear, nose, and throat doctor. >> we were bonding about medicine because i had just gotten through doing a stint in neuroscience at university of chicago so we were making jokes about the medical milieu and he was just very funny. >> so you hit it off right off the bat? >> right. we went out to dinner and i --
it was on a thursday thursday, friday, and saturday, and sunday with him, and by monday i was just enamored and smitten. >> within months michelle had moved out of her parents' home and into mark's town house in chicago. the whirlwind was on. athens, miami, caribbean sunsets, and french champagne. >> michelle, you look beautiful. >> for a southwest chicago girl whose father was a pipe fitter, this was head turning stuff. >> i just want to say this was the best vacation ever. i love you, baby. >> her new love was a philosophy quoting, poetry writing renaissance man. >> he professed his love in a poem. he swept mae off my feet. >> you had an unbelievable life. >> it really was, yeah. it was so romantic when i first met him. it was awesome and things got exponentially more outrageous as time went on. >> outrageously good. >> outrageously good, yeah.
>> for instance, instead of simply popping the question to michelle, mark flew her to rome. he had a driver bring her to meet him at the piazza. once there mark dropped to one knee and presented her with an enormous ring while a group of minstrels he had hired for the occasion serenaded her. >> i was crying and everybody in the piazza was clapping. it was a beautiful moment. >> their wedding in 2001 was actually a three-act extravaganza. first there was a small wedding in chicago's botanic garden held solely for the purpose of allowing michelle's father who was dying of cancer to walk her down the aisle. next, there was a lavish blessing ceremony in a 12th century villa on italy's coast. mark flew in a dozen guests from the states. then mark topped it all off by renting chicago's field museum and inviting 110 guests for another formal reception there.
those were the memories that kept running through michelle's mind as she and her mother waited for mark to return. but when the sun set that night and mark had not returned as the captain had promised, michelle knew something was horribly wrong. but what? there were no reports of an accident involving mark, no signs of foul play, no ransom notes. only questions. >> was there a note of any kind? >> nothing. >> no message, nothing? >> i went through the boat like a crazy person just tearing everything up looking for something. and the only two things i found was a thousand euros and my passport. in a drawer. >> after 24 hours of watching a hysterical michelle suffer, the yacht's captain gave her the number for a greek cell phone that mark had been secretly using ever since they had been on the yacht. michelle had no idea what would happen when she dialed that number but she was desperate to hear her husband's voice.
>> he answered rather happily, like at 5:00 a.m. he said, hello. and i was in shock. and i said, hello. then he fumbled with the phone and he hung up. >> did he know it was you on the phone? >> oh, yeah. >> how did that feel? >> i was devastated. i felt like somebody punched me in the stomach. i couldn't understand why he would do that. >> as it turned out, michelle's husband had, as promised, given her a huge surprise all right. he deserted her. for reasons she did not yet understand, michelle would have to return home alone. she knew her life as she had been living it was over. what she didn't know was that the devastation her husband had left behind went deeper than her own personal agony. and that the twisted tale of the run away doctor would eventually lead to one of the unlikeliest
places on earth. where was the doctor? and why had he abandoned his wife and his incredibly profitable medical practice? coming up. >> in a good week how much money do you think he took in? >> he was bringing in about a million dollars a month. >> when "the great escape" continues. uples. then we noticed something...strange. oh, could you, uh, make me a burger? -poof -- you're a burger. [ laughter ] -everyone acts like their parents. -you have a tattoo. -yes. -fun. do you not work? -so, what kind of mower you got, seth? -i don't know. some kid comes over. we pay him to do it. -but it's not all bad. someone even showed us how we can save money by bundling home and auto with progressive. progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents. but we can protect your home and auto. progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents. noso let's promote ourke summer travel deal on choicehotels.com like this: surf's up. earn a fifty-dollar gift card when you stay just twice this summer. or.. badda book. badda boom.
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>> welcome back. michelle weinberger had been living large with her wealthy husband surgeon mark weinberger. but that came to an abrupt end when he vanished from her life without a note or an explanation. why had the doctor abandoned the woman he professed to love? could his disappearance somehow be tied to his multimillion dollar medical practice? the picturesque greek isles where dr. mark weinberger deserted his wife in september, 2004, are half a world away from
the rust belt region of northwest indiana where he made his fortune. mark weinberger was not from indiana. he didn't grow up on hoop dreams or the hope of a union job. in fact, he didn't even live here. according to this pulitzer prize winning writer who consulted with "dateline" on this story mark weinberger was a nerdy kid from a wealthy new york suburb driven by sibling rivalry to out shine his brothers. >> mark figured the way to be the apple of my parents' eye is to do very well in school. he did very well in scarsdale high, went to the university of pennsylvania, then went to ucla medical school where he thrived. >> he could have established his ear, nose, and throat medical practice anywhere but in 1996 chose merrellville, indiana, close nauf to chicaenough to ch could live there and have chauffeurs drive him one hour to his office every day.
perhaps most important he could count on the air pollution in northwest indiana to provide a steady stream of patients with sinus problems. >> in northwest indiana where you're breathing in the pollution, high pollen, and extreme changes in temperature, it's not unusual to see a high degree of patients who suffer from sinus problems. >> weinberger's top medical assistant worked closely with him day in and day out. >> he was an excellent physician. >> what do you think motivated him? >> his desire to be the best at what he did. >> in 2000, weinberger began aggressively advertising himself as a sinus specialist. he billed himself as dr. nose and his practice grew rapidly. >> we could see 40 to 50 patients on an office day. out of those, 10 to 16 would be new patients. >> how many surgeries was he performing? >> on an average within 15 to 22 a week. >> 15 to 22 surgeries, one man,
every week. >> yes. >> you've worked in this business a long time. how busy is that compared to your average surgeon? >> huge. >> dennington says patients who walked into weinberger's clinic with anything from breathing problems to bad headaches were told that his sinus surgeries were an alternative to taking medications every day and had a 95% success rate. >> his technique was incredible. i have done sinus surgeries for 18 years. never saw the technique that he used. it was -- the benefit to the patients was amazing. >> weinberger's business model it seemed was based on the three word slogan of salesmen everywhere -- volume, volume, volume. >> i think he measured a certain amount of his worth by how many procedures he was doing. >> of course, the fact that nearly all of weinberger's patients seemed to have the same problem and require the exact same surgery greatly simplified
things. >> deviated septum and poll ips. >> what did the doctor recommend? >> surgery immediately. >> surgery. >> surgery asap. >> as consistent as these former patients say weinberger was with his diagnoses, suzette dennington says he was quite flexible when it came to billing insurance companies. >> it all depended on the amount the insurance company was willing to pay. it could be anywhere from about $1500 to $16,000 per procedure. >> as much as $16,000 per procedure, 15 to 20 procedures a week. >> correct. >> in a good week how much money do you think he took in? >> i know at one point for the entire business he was bringing in about a million dollars a month. >> even a man with expensive tastes such as mark weinberger could live large on a cash flow
like that. and according to writer buzz bissinger he did. at home there were maids, a personal trainer, and a masseuse. >> he would go on spending sprees, lived in a $2.5 million condominium, had three drivers on call by limo. >> who could have known in those first blissful days as the music played and champagne flowed how it would all end? certainly not his new bride michelle. >> a northwest indiana doctor is apparently on the run tonight and left behind serious legal trouble. >> in the weeks and months after her husband left her in greece michelle was bound and determined to find out why her husband abandoned her. coming up, lying low, living large. >> he had apparently packed two huge suitcases full of water filtration systems, equipment,
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>> in the weeks after her husband had abandoned her in greece, michelle examined every memory she had of mark weinberger. >> she's the hostess and she is the mosts. >> turning each unrelibel fragment over in her mind as if seeing recent scenes from her life for the first time. >> i have markey all to myself. i'm holding him as a prisoner. >> none of it made any sense to michelle. hadn't they had it all? money, youth, even happiness?
what on earth she wondered could cause him to chuck it all without a note of explanation? >> november 3 was our anniversary and a bit of a turning point for me, but prior to that i still believed whole heartedly that he was going to send for me. if he sent for me, i would have went with him. >> really. >> i would have, yes. and that day came and went with no phone call, no letter, nothing. and that made me realize that i need to take care of myself and try to get back on my own two feet. >> mark was still alive. she knew that because even though she hadn't heard from him since that brief phone call in greece, credit card statements were still coming into their home in chicago. >> he's going to the biggest fashion houses across france and buying clothing and he's at casinos. >> and you're back and can't even pay the water bill. >> right. i'm sitting there crying every
night listening to our songs, you know, mourning his loss. and he's in the south of france. >> his credit card tally in the south of france alone added up to more than $50,000. since there is no law against disappearing, michelle couldn't really go to the authorities. it seemed the only people even interested in finding mark weinberger were his creditors. but michelle wouldn't give up. on more than one occasion michelle flew to europe in hopes of tracking down and confronting her husband. >> just me and a pair of handcuffs. i brought handcuffs because i figured if he saw me he might be freaked out and i just wanted an explanation. >> she even came close once, arriving at a paris hotel just a day after weinberger had checked out. but back home she still faced a growing pile of unpaid bills. mark had never allowed her to
see the bills before or even have her own checking account. >> it's almost laughable in a way when i get faxes from banks saying i owe $3.5 million because i don't even have a concept in my head of what $3 million is. >> eventually, michelle learned that mark weinberger had left her $6 million in debt. we first met michelle in february, 2005, five months after her husband had vanished. at that time michelle's home was in foreclosure and she realized she had no choice but to file for divorce. >> i don't know how ready i am to say i'm filing for divorce, but financially it's a necessity right now, so it's something that has to be done in order to try to separate myself from the debt that he's accrued. >> in october, 2005, a little over a year after her husband literally jumped ship, michelle filed for bankruptcy. >> the person that i fell in love with, the person i knew for
five years, that person certainly was a soulmate and a best friend to me. this person who would leave behind such devastation in his wake, i don't know who he is. >> with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight michelle told us she should have seen the signs of trouble coming. mark was sometimes distant and could be rude even abusive to people he deemed social infear yors. but the summer of 2004, a few months before mark disappeared, seemed to be the real turning point. michelle was pregnant. >> both of us could not have been happier at that moment. those good feelings lasted for a couple weeks. then i had to go to hawaii for an apa conference i was presenting at. >> presenting at the american psychological association conference that july was a prestigious honor for a grad student like michelle.
michelle says even though mark begged her not to go, she went anyway. and things started to change while i was in hawaii. he called me and said that the lawyers are claiming that he was doing unnecessary surgery and he was afraid it was going to become a class action suit. at which point he jumped ten steps ahead and assumed that his insurance company would settle, his medical license would be taken away, and everything would be destroyed. >> so his life is flashing before his eyes. >> one of those former patients now had terminal cancer and she was suing him for not diagnosing it sooner. michelle says that for mark, the malpractice suit was more than just a blemish on his reputation. it was a blow to his vanity. though michelle assured him of her love and support, she said shea could fe she could feel her husband pulling away. >> i knew he was stressed out about the lawsuits but i
believed in my heart it was something we could fight against. >> a few weeks later it was michelle who was devastated and needed support when she suffered a miscarriage and had to be hospitalized. >> and he promised, he swore that he would be there before i went under anesthesia. and he insisted that he had to go into his office to take care of some things. he didn't show up and i was shocked. >> whatever mark weinberger was doing in the office those days was also a mystery to employees like suzette dennington, weinberger's top medical assistant at the sinus clinic. >> he started being one of the first people to arrive in the office and one of the last to leave every day. >> what was he doing in his office? >> i don't know. the door was closed. it was very quiet. we would have to, you know, knock on the door and let him know that there was another patient ready to be seen. he definitely withdrew. >> suzette says that wasn't the only strange thing going on that
summer. suddenly, shipments of camping gear began arriving at the weinberger clinic. >> one of his treatment rooms in one wing of the building that was full of camping equipment. i really didn't see him as being much of a camper. >> he's more four seasons hotel kind of guy. >> right. but he was almost frantically packing it up. >> what kinds of equipment did he have? >> there were several backpacks, just bags that were stuffed with things that you couldn't see. >> and then there were the strange men with thick european accents that some employees reported seeing coming into the office with brief cases to meet privately with weinberger. michelle later learned those men were diamond dealers from new york. >> i think he bought about maybe $500,000 worth of diamonds before he left. >> $500,000. where did the diamonds go? >> with him, i suppose. i didn't find out anything about diamonds until after he had left. >> diamonds, light, fungible, and untraceable.
just the kind of tip that's found in a book michelle discovered among mark's things after he left. michelle came to see that her husband had been planning his vanishing act for months. >> he had apparently packed two huge suitcases full of water filtration systems, gps equipment, language tapes, all types of bizarre things. and he shipped one of the bags to cannes and another bag to athens. >> a meticulous plan perfectly executed. even though in hindsight michelle now remembered how nervous he had been on the day they flew to greece. >> he was yelling at everybody. he's like, i have to make this flight. i'm like, we're not late. we're not going to miss the flight. he was just completely uncontrollable in the airport. >> oddly enough, even knowing her husband had deliberately deceived, humiliated, and abandoned her, michelle continued to defend him.
>> he was an excellent doctor. that's why it really infuriated me to see his name dragged through the mud. >> the real culprits, michelle felt, were former patients egged on by greedy lawyers who were suing him for malpractice. >> i think it's a bit opportunistic but that's the state of our legal system in this country. that's what doctors have to face every day. >> how can you stand up for him now? >> because i know how much he cared about his patients. in the end, i think that he was a very scared man. >> had it actually been one of those patients who caused mark weinberger to flee, forfeiting all he worked for? michelle was sure of it. she'd often heard mark mention the name of one of his former patients in the weeks and months before he left. a woman with terminal cancer. >> coming up -- >> she had a cough that wouldn't
go away, sore throat, hoarseness. these are things a first-year medical student would recognize as signs and symptoms of throat cancer. weinberger didn't pay attention. >> when "the great escape" >> when "the great escape" continues. lease the 2019 ux 200 for $329 a month for 36 months. experience amazing at your lexus dealer. my time is thin, but so is my lawn. now there's scotts thick'r lawn 3-in-1 solution. with a soil improver! seed! and fertilizer to feed! now yard time is our time. this is a scotts yard. that there's a lobster i in our hot tub?t. lobster: oh, you guys. there's a jet! oh...i needed this. no, i can't believe how easy it was to save hundreds of dollars on our car insurance with geico. we could have been doing this a long time ago. so, you guys staying at the hotel? yeah, we just got married. oh ho-ho! congratulations!
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the most personal technology, is technology with the power to change your life. life. to the fullest. >> our top stories, a barge accident partially shut down the crucial houston waterway one of the busiest shipping areas in the world. one barge was severely damaged. another capsized, the incident releasing thousands of gallons of gasoline into the water. no injuries reported. rudy guiliani has canceled a trip to the ukraine where he said he planned to meddle in an investigation that could hurt former vice president joe biden politically. now back to "dateline." >> welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin.
michelle weinberger's leif was in chaos. her husband mark had been her prince charming. then he abandoned her. she realized he had been secretly planning his disappearance for months after being hit with a malpractice suit. what was it about this patient that caused mark to give up that good life for a life on the run? in winter, the skies over northwest indiana where dr. mark weinberger practiced medicine usually have all the luster of wet cotton. but for weinberger and his wife, michelle, late december, 2001 was just another blue sky, caribbean holiday. >> it's gorgeous. >> it's a beautiful day here. >> it's perhaps good that the happy couple couldn't see the future on a day such as this, because there was so much unhappiness ahead. in three years, he would be on the run somewhere in europe, and shea would be alone, broken hearted and bankrupt.
of course, they had no way of seeing any of this coming. not here. not on this night. >> new year's eve, 2002. i've never been so happy in my whole life. this has been my dream. >> but far to the north in indiana one of dr. weinberger's patients, phyllis barnes. her sister says her road to hell began three months earlier when she went to see dr. weinberger. >> she had trouble catching her breath. she seemed to have sort of cold-like symptoms or bronchitis. she just seemed run down. >> you thought it might be allergies or a cold. >> yeah. >> it could have been a number of things. her voice was raspy. she had a sore throat. but perhaps the most troubling symptom for phyllis, a life long smoker, was she had recently
beg begun coughing up blood. >> i believe when she went to dr. weinberger she told him she was a smoker. i don't think she tried to hide that from anybody. >> how did she find out about mark weinberger? >> i believe one of her co-workers may have seen billboards. >> the nose doctor. >> mm-hmm. >> in hindsight going to the self-proclaimed nose doctor may have been a mistake, but since phyllis had a long history of sinus problems seeking out a sinus specialist for her breathing problems seemed logical. >> the first time i heard about him was when she called me up. she was going to have sinus surgery and needed a ride to and from the surgery. >> dr. weinberger's diagnosis? sinusitis, naval polyps, deviated septum, all problems he told her could be cured with surgery. did your sister get better after the surgery? >> no. she got progressively worse after the surgery. >> by thanksgiving just six
weeks after her surgery with weinberger phyllis barnes was gasping for breath. repeated followup visits to the clinic brought no relief. her family feared she might have pneumonia. >> i had to call the ambulance one night to have her taken to the emergency room because she couldn't breathe. >> shawn barnes, phyllis's daughter was only 16 at the time. >> she did pull through but it was a hard time. >> within days of leaving the emergency room phyllis was again gasping for breath. in december, 2001, she turned to another ear, nose, and throat doctor for relief. the new doctor immediately suspected something serious. her breathing was ragged and a large lump was visible on the side of her neck. >> he called me on my cell phone and he said he had just seen my sister and he felt that she had possibly advanced cancer. and he had scheduled her for a
biopsy. >> that biopsy quickly confirmed the doctor's hunch. at 47, phyllis barnes had stage 4 throat cancer. >> honey, i hope you find something worth while to do today. >> a life long do-it-yourselfer phyllis barnes was now facing the biggest recovery and rehab project of her life. >> daniel do not stand there doing that to me. >> she first came to northwest indiana from her native mississippi in the late '70s after college. >> i'm busy. >> mo >> i love you, phyllis. >> her sister peggy was already here and here she met her husband daniel barnes, started a family, and began a career in social work helping displaced steel workers. >> it was a government agency that tried to help place people who had lost their jobs in this area and she really liked that. >> a big part of that job
involved public speaking. but by the time mark weinberger was popping champagne corks down in the caribbean that new year's eve, that part of phyllis's career was over. surgeons had taken drastic action to fight the advanced cancer in her throat. >> she ended up losing her voice box. and it was a very disfiguring surgery. but i think she felt like, you know, after all she'd gone through that she was going to be okay. >> and so phyllis barnes sole jersole -- soldiered on. there was the usual litany of chemo and she volunteered for experimental treatments. >> she suffered in silence. i think she kept a lot of what she was going through to herself. >> family members admit phyllis's cigarette use was probably a factor but those who
watched her withering away wondered if dr. weinberger might have missed a chance to catch the cancer early, which cost her valuable time. >> regardless of why she got cancer or how shea got cancer or where she got cancer, she should have been able to go to a doctor and expect a certain quality of treatment that she didn't get. >> in late 2002, perhaps sensing time was not on her side, phyllis barnes hired personal injury lawyer ken allen to sue dr. weinberger for negligence and malpractice. >> phyllis had the classic signs and symptoms of throat cancer. she was a smoker for many years. she had a cough that wouldn't go away, sore throat, hoarseness. these are things that a first-year medical student would recognize as signs and symptoms of throat cancer. weinberger didn't pay attention. >> there's my daughter and my
husband. >> the soft, southern voice that had once been phyllis's calling card was gone. >> my fellow workers are so used to me talking about this that they were always going to give me a look like what is basically wrong with you? >> in a video deposition given shortly after the lawsuit was filed phyllis spoke in a flat, robotic voice about her cancer and struggle to live a normal life. >> some days i have to suction out my lungs if they're congested. >> the stakes could not have been higher. shawn, phyllis's only child had recently lost her father to cancer. now that she seemed destined to become an orphan phyllis told her lawyer her daughter's welfare was her main concern. >> i am my daughter's only surviving parent. i just want to make sure that she goes to school. >> on september 16th, 2004,
almost exactly one year after that deposition was recorded, phyllis barnes died surrounded by her family. as it happened, that was just two days before dr. weinberger and his wife left the united states for the greek islands. the great escape he had been planning for three months was about to begin. but right on his heels a family and a lawyer seeking justice. coming up -- >> he knew having killed someone it was not something he could easily sweep under the rug. it really is evil and he needs, he deserves to be punished. >> when "the great escape" continues. nooooo... quick, the quicker picker upper! bounty picks up messes quicker and is 2x more absorbent than the leading ordinary brand.
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earlier had he treated phyllis properly. she filed a malpractice suit but then the cancer tack her life. within days of her death weinberger vanished leaving his wife and he hoped his mounting legal troubles behind. but his disappearance triggered a legal avalanche. it turns out phyllis's experience was not isolated. >> dr. mark weinberger was never shy about telling the people of northwest indiana who he was and what he was about. and neither is ken allen, the man who was weinberger's chief nemesis before he vanished and later became one of his most persistent pursuers. >> he knew he was mutilating patients to bill the insurance companies for surgeries that weren't necessary. it really is evil. and he needs, he deserves to be punished. >> ken allen you'll remember is the lawyer phyllis barnes hired to sue weinberger. in court documents allen alleges
weinberger misdiagnosed phyllis's condition and gave her a surgery she didn't need while missing the cancer that killed her. >> he needs to understand it wasn't just the insurance companies that were harmed. it was paem. lives were destroyed. people were hurt. >> phyllis barnes it turns out was just the tip of the iceberg. once mark weinberger fled malpractice lawsuits began flooding in to lawyers. among those new clients were kayla thomas and her mother valerie. in 20038-year-old kayla began having headaches so severe they caused vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light. valerie says she decided to take kayla to dr. weinberger after seeing one of his billboards touting sinus surgery is a cure for headaches. >> i took her to his office. they did an immediate ct scan and said she had a deviated septum, polyps, and he could make her headache free for the
rest of her life if she had immediate surgery. >> how quickly did it happen? >> within two weeks i believe. >> and how is she? >> the headaches never stopped. the light sensitivity actually became worse. >> valerie says it wasn't until she took kayla to see specialists at the university of chicago medical center that she finally discovered the cause of kayla's misery. >> and they did a ct scan as well of her head and they told us that evening that there was a tumor there. >> and what was that night like? >> that was the worst nate of my life. >> though the tumor turned out to be noncancerous it was growing and surgeons told the thomases kayla would need immediate brain surgery to reduce the pressure in her head. >> kayla, do you understand what the doctor said? >> i didn't know understand most of it, but some of it, like i would have to have surgery and then how i would have to be taken care of afterward i understood. >> but there was a problem.
valerie says the university of chicago doctors told her scar tissue from the weinberger sinus surgery prevented them from removing more than 5% to 10% of the tumor. >> her neuro surgeon and specialists all said why. each one said a 9-year-old doesn't have polyps that need to be removed. >> in time, more than 350 of mark weinberger's former patients would join in lawsuits against him while he was lounging in the caves and casinos of europe. almost all of them accused him of the same things. misdiagnosing real problems and performing unnecessary surgeries. >> mark weinberger ran a surgery mill. he saw up to a hundred patients or more a day. he did a hundred or 150 surgeries a month. and he made a lot of money. >> how do you see a hundred patients in a day? >> you give every patient the same diagnosis and you give
every patient the same prescription. surgery. >> 18 months after he had vanished, a federal grand jury indicted weinberger on 22 counts of healthcare fraud. by now the state of indiana had revoked his medical license and his sinus clinic had been sold off to settle outstanding debts. the fbi haddish unit issued a wr his arrest. weinberger's ex-wife michelle says it was clear to her little effort was being made to actually find him. >> the fbi has a hauj list of people they're looking for. there are terrorists on the list. here is a white collar criminal who is just hiding out in europe and they made it clear to me that he wasn't their number one priority. >> coming up, a first class fugitive on a mission to keep his whereabouts a secret. >> and he arrived how? >> with a driver we were told. >> when "the great escape"
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>> welcome back. indiana doctor mark weinberger was on the lam. he had been accused of medical malpractice and fled the country, then a federal grand jury indicted him in absentia for healthcare fraud. there was one attorney who was especially determined to find mark and bring him to justice, but where in the world to begin looking? >> though the fbi posted its arrest warrant with interpol, an international police organization, mark weinberger was for all intents and purposes out of sight and out of mind. but not in northwest indiana. >> he needs to be held to account. more than that he needs to be punished and it's my job to do that. >> for ken allen, the weinberger case felt personal. this was his backyard. and though he may not look like a working class hero in his
tailored suits, ken allen says his father was a steel worker like many of weinberger's former patients. in fact, allen says he worked in the mills himself as a teenager. that's him behind the welding mask. >> a lot of my colleagues as lawyers somehow think that they morph into something different once they get a law degree and all of that and i know who i am. i know where i came from and i don't forget that. >> though hard to prove, ken allen believes his lawsuit on behalf of phyllis barnes and her subsequent death are what caused mark weinberger to flee. >> weinberger realized at that juncture that his gig was up. he knew, having killed someone, that it was not something he could easily sweep under the rug. >> and so with prosecutorial zeal, this personal injury attorney hired private investigators to chase down rumored sightings of mark
weinberger. in china, israel, and france. >> it was almost like sightings of elvis. because we would get tips or leads that we'd follow up on to a blind alley. >> but it was in this remote corner of italy, not far from the swiss border, that our story takes its most intriguing turn. two years after mark weinberger slipped off that yacht in the greek islands, a mysterious american rolled into the alpine village of courmeyer making a lasting impression with his money. it krouchs in the shadow of europe's highest peak on italy's side of the border with switzerland. it's quaint and remote and wealthy tourists are drawn to the slopes for skiing in winter and mountain climbing in warmer
months. at night they fill the local bars, cavefes and restaurants a of it providing the perfect cover for anyone who doesn't want to stand out. call it st. maritz without the glitz. >> do you forget how fantastic this is when you live here? >> you can't because this is very, very spectacular. >> lieutenant colonel of the italian state police. according to colonel devita it was in late 2006 at the beginning of another ski season a certain high rolling station rolled in to courmeyer. >> he arrived how? >> in a limousine with a driver we are told. >> first class. >> very first class. >> locals say the stranger appeared to be an american. he kept to himself mostly. >> he was also described as a nays man, very quiet man.
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>> what kinds of things did he buy? >> very, very expensive material for climbing. >> any sign of a bank account here in town? >> no. >> just cash. >> just cash. this is the main street of courmayeur. >> and some very nice high-end shops here. >> yes. very expensive, too. >> this is a place where he frequented. >> yes. >> an american with money is always welcome. but in a small town like courmayeur, it was inevitable that someone would pull up a chair, perhaps buy him a drink,
and try to learn something about this solitary american and pass it along. did you ever see him here? his name according to those who gained his confidence was mark. mark something. >> it sound quite like a german last name. mark stern. >> whenever he was in town, mark stern seemed to be a fixture on the nearby slopes by day and a cafe presence by night. no one seemed to know where he slept exactly until late 2008. >> here on the left we have the agency. >> that's when he walked into this real estate office and signed a lease. >> this is where he rented his apartment. >> yes. >> it looked as though the rich american intended to stick around for a while. >> it's not a very affordable place. >> the apartment he lents was in a convenient spot near the center of town. whatever you need is right here. >> just a few steps from the lift that carries skiers up to the slopes and just a few yards
down the block from a local grocery. >> he would shop in here? >> yes. >> handy for a single man to grab a few supplies and something simple to heat up at home. the stranger might well have lived on indefinitely as courmayeur's very own international man of mystery, had he not walked into that grocery store one night and struck up a conversation with a woman behind the register. that is where our story takes another fateful turn because it was in that moment that the rich american proceeded to make a mistake that has proved the undoing of men ever since adam accepted that apple from eve. the man who called himself mark stern was about to fall in love. for more than two years, mark weinberger walked the streets of europe safe in the anonymity of crowds.
according to "vanity fair" writer buzz bissinger, he cut away people from the past, anyone who knew his name with the cool detachment of a surgeon. >> i think it's i'm rejecting everything i had in the past. maybe you don't like your wife or maybe you do. he leaves in september of 2004. never, ever contacts her again. he's got a brother neil who he's very close to. never, ever contacts him again. so that's what we're dealing with. >> it must have been exhilarating at first, using fake names and covering your tracks like a character in some spy novel. but in all fiction stories there comes a time and place where a woman enters the story and carefully wrought plans begin to crumble. for the man calling himself mark stern, the place was courmayeur, and the woman in question had a past as intriguing as his own. >> i saw him in my market.
>> a customer. >> yeah. he came to bring milk, bananas, some cheese. >> he was buying milk, banana, cheese from you. >> yeah. >> monica spaconi, a transsexual, had recently had an operation to become female. she said the man who walked into her store bought groceries from her more than two dozen times in the winter of 2007-2008. sometimes he paused to make small talk. >> what name did he use? >> mark stern. >> then she says she didn't see him for a while. >> in the springtime, disappear. summertime, too. >> monica says that when mark stern returned at the end of november 2008, he told her he had been bicycling around europe. it was then, monica says, she and that outdoorsy american began skiing together practically every day. and he began telling her stories
about his life. >> he told me to be married and to be divorced. and to have a strange wife, asking money, money, money, money, money. mercedes first. >> he said his wife wanted all these things. >> exactly. he laughed about her. >> he laughed about her. >> yeah. >> monica says mark stern told her he was a stockbroker from new york who had made a lot of money but now only wanted to live a peaceful life. >> and he told me, my life was really, really, really stressed, and now -- and here i enjoy here and so i've found finally quiet. and that was impressive for me because i'm quiet. >> according to monica, her mark stern was a born romantic, who knew how to sweep a girl off her feet. >> so valentine's day 2009, he arrived with this rose with a big smile, was an amazing night. so there happened private
things. >> love. >> yeah. yeah. first time with him and after i was always -- it was always good. >> monica says even in their moments of intimacy the man she knew as mark stern clammed up whenever she asked for details about his past. >> what he told me was, don't ask me my past, please. >> don't ask. >> exactly. >> still, monica says the relationship became serious enough that she introduced him to her parents, who were quite taken by this sophisticated american. >> with my parents, talked about economy,n, philosophy. >> philosophy. >> philosophy, yeah.tazing
clue perhaps but only for someone familiar with the life story of a certain free-spending, philosophy-loving fugitive doctor from america. philosophy, after all, had always been a pet passion of mark weinberger's. but that tidbit meant nothing to monica. she had never even heard of mark weinberger. all she knew was that this man, this mark stern, loved her. >> from the first day he was a really good man with me. with me, my family, with my friends, was a good man. for me was a good man. >> in the spring of 2009, monica says she and mark took a grueling bike trip through alpine passes to switzerland. monica says it was in a swiss village that mark told her he wanted to spend one night on the mountain alone. >> the next morning i bring my cycle and up the mountain to him.
he come close to me with a big smile, screaming thank you, monica, thank you, monica, thank you, monica. why, mark? because i passed the best night of my life. >> after returning to courmayeur, monica says mark stern told her he had been inspired by that night on the mountain and wanted to spend a whole year at a high altitude in a tent alone. >> he wanted to write a book, how to survive above -- >> 6,000 feet. >> exactly. for an entire year. >> that september monica says mark set up and equipped three separate campsites in the mountains above courmayeur. >> really beautiful. really beautiful. >> she says he told her that after publishing that book he was writing they would move to switzerland together and perhaps adopt children. >> this is my little city i started building. >> and so, as the temperatures
dropped in the fall of 2009 and the snow came, the man monica knew as mark stern set to make a name for himself in the alps. to her, it seemed crazy. but writer buzz bissinger says monica's mark stern was actually behaving true to form. >> i think when he decided, i'm living this philosophical, aesthetic monk-like life, i have to do it big live type. i'm going to go to the mountain and live up to my butt in snow, in 15-degree-below weather and prove my manhood, unlike anyone else has ever proved it. it makes perfect sense to me because that's exactly what a narcissist does. >> so this is my camp. >> monica recorded this video of her boyfriend's mountain campsite on her cell phone. >> so the city is growing a little. >> though his tastes for having the very best gear money could
buy is evident, the new and improved alpine mark demonstrates he has learned the value of improvisation. >> these are $8 gardening gloves, and i got sick of getting my hands wet with my expensive 100 euro high-tech gore-tex gloves. >> in this clip, mark and monica have found an unoccupied shelter on the mountain. it's not as posh as that chicago townhouse he once owned, but after months of living alone in a tent, this shelter seems to suit him. >> if i owned this place, i would live here. i would live here. >> why not? >> for sure. >> these were the happy times, the moments when past burdens seemed to melt away like spring snow. but monica says there were also days when her lover seemed to be cracking under the weight of something unseen. and yet undeniable. >> november 2009, he was a little depressed because was cold and at the time he was
alone. and so was difficult, really difficult. one day he began to cry. what's up, mark? what's up? i'm tired, really tired. why, mark? forget, but i'm tired. >> was mark stern just tired of living in a tent or tired of living a lie? whichever it was, as he settled in for another cold and lonely night on the mountain, he had no idea of how close his past was to catching up to him.
for years after her husband abandoned her in the greek isles, michelle kramer fought back every way she could. she tried tracking him down herself, following leads to paris and cannes. she enlisted the public's help. >> it was peeling the scars from my heart. >> once the story grew cold, michelle resigned herself to the probability mark weinberger was gone forever. >> i had hoped that he would be caught, but i thought there was a really good chance that he would die on the run in europe and nobody would know where he was. >> then in december 2008, four years after mark weinberger left
her with just a passport and 1,000 euros, michelle kramer got a call from the fbi and asked her to do an interview with "america's most wanted." >> the fbi hoped i would help them. i had stopped doing a lot of media at that point. i was focusing on my career and trying to move forward. but i thought, okay, i'll help with the investigation. i felt like i really needed an answer from him. >> it was a long shot, michelle thought, another pointless appeal broadcast into the ether. >> he's probably living the high life again somewhere in the mediterranean. >> this time was different. this time the mark weinberger story found extended shelf life on the internet where more than a year later on december 9, 2009, the right pair of eyes finally found it. >> so i receive a strange call to my phone, was a friend.
he told me, monica, mark is not what he claim to be. what do you mean? trust me. >> the next day, that friend met with monica and showed her a picture of the man she knew as mark stern. it was a printout taken from the "america's most wanted" web site. >> my entire world fall. my knees crack. what's up? it's not true. and my -- >> you didn't believe it. >> yeah. i don't believe it. >> a quick internet search confirmed the dimensions of a lie that left her dazzled and undone. her lover, mark stern, was actually mark weinberger, an international fugitive and he was apparently capable of anything. >> first think, okay, i go to the police. i know where he is. i'm sorry, mark, but --
>> you need to tell the truth. >> exactly. >> i think it was a very torturous decision, but i think at the end of the day she felt she had an obligation. i give her a tremendous amount of credit. she did the right thing. >> it was inside this police station that monica spaconi told police her lover, perhaps her first since becoming a woman, was a wanted man. >> was she crying? >> not exactly. but she was very, very scared. who really was this mark she knew? >> colonel davida says soon after monica left the office, a local rental agent walked in, also complaining about a man named mark who hadn't paid his rent in three months. most important, the agency had a copy of mark weinberger's real passport. >> he left a copy of his real passport? >> a copy of his real passport, yes. >> and he's a fugitive on the run. >> yes. you can't rent a flat if you don't leave a copy of your document. >> not only did police now know
monica's boyfriend and the deadbeat renter were one in the same, thanks to monica, they also knew which of three campsites he was currently using. >> she also told us mark was going to stay there for a week. >> he would be in this location for a week. >> for a week, yes. >> without her doing that, who knows if they ever would have found him? you know, it's the alps. there are a lot of places to hide. >> the next day, police put a helicopter in the air to search the area. though they saw tracks in the snow, near where monica said they would find weinberger's camp, bad weather forced them to abandon the aerial search. but even then luck seemed to be with the police. hikers just down from the mountain reported seeing something strange. >> the same day people coming down from mountain told us there was strange male leaving a tent. >> finally, on the morning of december 15, 2009, three days after monica had first tipped
them off, a team of police officers set out on a cross-country trek to a remote area near the swiss border. >> in the distance, we could see a man walking around a tent. >> did he seem startled to see you? >> yes. >> and what does he say? >> there were not wearing the uniform. they approached, asking him, what are you doing here? he answered, i want to live a quiet life. >> i want to live a quiet life. >> yeah. they asked him, who are you? he answered, my name is mark weinberger. >> and that was that. after five years on the run and four months on the mountain, the search for mark weinberger was over. no confrontation, no dash for freedom. instead, the fugitive doctor posed for pictures. inside the tent, police found euros worth about $3,000,
top-notch equipment, a stockpile of food and medicine. >> cialis, like viagra. and some survival medications. >> under italian law, weinberger could be held for 24 hours while police verified his identity. so mark weinberger was taken back down the mountain to the police barracks in courmayeur. >> he was in very good shape, very kauai e. i asked him, are you married? i'm divorced. what's your job? i'm a surgeon. >> a surgeon. >> did he say anything about the charges against him? >> no. >> while at the police station, weinberger was given a cursory pat-down and offered lunch. >> he had food with us at our same table. >> was he hungry? >> i think, yes. also because our food is very, very -- how i say -- good. >> according to the officers at the table, weinberger took a desperate turn. >> what can you say about what happened next?
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after five years on the run, the capture of mark weinberger in the italian alps was almost anticlie mack tick. no shootouts, car chases or international intrigue. just friendly cops chatting up an amiable american over pictures, pasta and wine. >> it's very italian and everything seems cool. >> any sense of what was about to happen next? >> none. no. i think they were shocked. he says he has to go to the
bathroom, as would be police procedure, they follow him into the bathroom. i don't think they have any idea what's going to happen. >> an italian cop stood in an open doorway as weinberger sat on the toilet. then in a flash, the officer saw weinberger's hand jerked toward his own throat. >> he pulls a knife out that he has concealed and attempts to kill himself. >> though weinberger managed to inflict a superficial cut on his neck, police officers were able to stop him before he did serious damage. >> some say he was trying to attempt suicide so he would get placed in a prison hospital. i don't think he was thinking that far ahead. i think he was trying to kill himself. >> days later, while recovering in a hospital, he tried again, this time by putting a plastic bag over his head. >> he did not want to go back. there was too much, a trail of
devastation. >> within a week, news of mark weinberger's arrest was everywhere. in merrillville, indiana, former patients woke to find their nose doctor on the front page. in alabama, michelle kramer, the wife he had abandoned, was just wrapping up another long day as a psychology intern when she heard the news. >> tears started coming out of my eyes and i didn't know if they were tears of joy or tears of sadness. i couldn't even identify what my emotions were. >> out in california, shawn barnes, a college student, was heading home for the holidays when her aunt called to tell her. >> i got that news, and you have all this time to think going across the country. and it was just like the strangest christmas present i ever could have imagined. >> shawn's mother phyllis
barnes, remember, had been a patient of weinberger's and filed the first malpractice suit against him. >> i wasn't sure at first if it was a good or bad thing or what. >> by february 2010, arrangements for weinberger's extradition had been completed and he was back in the united states and facing a world of legal trouble. first, there was a 22-count criminal insurance fraud indictment charging him with billing surgeries he didn't do and overbilling for those he did do. then hundreds of former patients were suing him for malpractice. >> what he has done to my daughter is horrific. >> remember valerie thomas' daughter kayla? she's the adorable 8-year-old who got sinus surgery from mark weinberger back in 2004 when her real problem was a brain tumor. she's 15 now and still struggling with complications from that surgery. >> he knew what he was doing. he knew that the surgery could cause me problems. >> what kind of a man do you think would skip out on all this trouble? >> a coward. >> while weinberger was chasing adventure in europe -- >> are you happy? >> i'm happy, baby. >> -- kayla is growing up with a benign tumor in her head. kayla's mom says the tumor could not be removed because extensive scar tissue from the weinberger surgery blocked access to it.
the tumor continues to grow, causing kayla excruciating pain, a loss of peripheral vision and pain. >> she's had spinal taps because of the tumor causing intercranial pressure. >> what is your prognosis now, kayla? >> they're really not sure. a lot of things are taken day by day. >> and that's the way you want to take it. >> i guess right now there's no other way to take it. >> patients and others hoping mark weinberger would be severely punished by the criminal justice system were soon disappointed. eight months after his return to the united states, federal prosecutors offered mike weinberger a plea deal which he accepted. in exchange for agreeing to plead guilty to all of the federal insurance fraud charges, mark weinberger would get four >> if he gets four years, a slap on the wrist in club fed, i guarantee you he will be out somewhere, whether it's in the united states or somewhere else,
practicing medicine doing the same kind of thing in some way, shape or form. >> regardless of the punishment he had ultimately received from the criminal justice system, it seemed certain the malpractice suits would keep him tied up in civil courts for years. there are more than 350 medical malpractice cases pending against the doctor, each with the potential to put mark weinberger in a financial prison from which there is no parole. >> it really is not about the money. it's about getting a large judgment against this man so that he can't feel any freedom for the rest of his life. >> march 2011, 6 1/2 years after he disappeared into the greek night, the first malpractice case against mark weinberger was ready for trial in civil court. coming up --
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perhaps it was always there, in his eyes, a calculating gaze that could convince women to love him. >> i love you, baby. >> i love you, baby. >> persuade patients to trust him. >> i was very impressed with him. >> and make even seasoned cops believe he was harmless. >> he looked happy. >> whatever it was, the eyes that stared out from front pages after mark weinberger's capture, still had the power to move even those he had left behind. >> the look in the eyes is a look i've never seen from him,
that i would have never expected to see on his face. and that -- when you care about somebody and you see that kind of look, it can't help but touch you. >> suzette dennington, once mark weinberger's top medical assistant, was one of the few willing to say a kind word about him as his legal problems mounted. >> nothing is ever as cut and try as you believe it is. >> according to dennington, weinberger was a fine doctor simply being attacked by patients and lawyers because of the salacious tabloid aspects of his story had made him an easy target. >> i really don't think that he set out to scam the world and, you know, be guilty of all the things that they are so easily saying he's guilty of. >> attorney ken allen, however, sees it differently. >> you look into somebody's eyes and you expect some glimmer of humanity, some soul, something. he has nothing. he is a very evil person.
>> in preparing to bring the phyllis barnes case to court, ken allen was able to question the runaway doctor in jail. >> i saw a very sinister person, a very sinister person. and a person who is very capable of pretending he has some measure of remorse. but i could see he was not changed or remorseful at all. >> in march 2011, more than six years after her death, the family of phyllis barnes finally got their chance to present their malpractice case against mark weinberger in a civil trial. weinberger elected not to attend. ken allen's case hinged on convincing the jury weinberger could have caught phyllis' cancer had he given her a thorough examination. allen told the jurors that phyllis barnes, a two-pack-a-day smoker had gone to see weinberger complaining of trouble bleeding, coughing and hoarseness. she was coughing up blood.
despite all of that, allen said weinberger violated standard of care by focusing exclusively on her sinuses. >> he was an ent doctor. mark weinberger simply forgot about the "e" and "t" and focused on the "n." you can't do that. if you're an ent doctor, you're required to examine a patient's throat. that was one of the reasons why phyllis came to see him. weinberger didn't even bother to look at her throat. >> as if calling his next witness from the grave, ken allen played a recording of phyllis barnes on a large tv monitor. >> he told me that he only took whatever the insurance was willing to pay, and i felt like that was -- everything seemed to this was all good, that it was just sinuses and no problem.
so he did order a cat scan of the sinuses and scheduled surgery. >> this, ken allen told the jury, is the cat scan dr. weinberger did of phyllis barnes' sinuses. according to experts who testified at trial, the scan showed phyllis' sinuses were actually clear. >> weinberger -- and i hesitate to call him a doctor -- treated phyllis barnes as nothing more than an insurance paycheck. >> according to the ear nose and throat doctor who discovered phyllis' throat cancer two months later, the sinus surgery was not only unnecessary, it probably caused her cancer to grow more rapidly than it might have otherwise. ken allen told the jury the reason mark weinberger recommended sinus surgery for phyllis barnes was greed. mark weinberger needed money to support his lavish lifestyle, allen told the court, and sinus surgery is what paid the bills. >> will you please tell us your name and spell your last name for the court reporter.
>> michelle kramer. >> allen put weinberger's ex-wife michelle on the big screen to talk about their high life. >> we had a yacht that was in the mediterranean half the year and in the balm bahamas the other half of the year. >> in prerecorded testimony, michelle told the court that the phyllis barnes case weighed heavily on her husband's mind the week before he abandoned her. >> he was constantly fretting and worrying about the lawsuit, becoming increasingly paranoid and anxious. >> shawn barnes, phyllis' daughter, also told the court of the devastating effect her mother's death had on her life. her father had died of brain cancer 18 months earlier. >> i basically had to grow up overnight. suddenly had bills to pay, was in danger of losing my house and i had to go to school.
i was going to work part time. i didn't have the opportunity to go out and be a college student or be a teenager because i had all of these responsibilities suddenly. >> ken allen wrapped up his case by playing the testimony he recorded of mark weinberger in jail. we can't show you the tape because the judge in the case ruled that broadcasting it would prejudice future juries. however, we can tell you that mark weinberger answered the question the same way more than 150 times, on the advice of counsel, i'm asserting my fifth amendment privilege not to answer the question. after that it deposition was played for the court, weinberger's attorney began his defense by admitting mark weinberger is probably not a likeable guy. but that he told the jury is beside the point. this case, he says, is about one thing and one thing only. dr. weinberger's treatment of phyllis barnes. james ho was the attorney hired by weinberger's malpractice insurer to defend him.
ho did not respond to a request for an interview. however, in court he told the jury phyllis barnes needed sinus surgery. not only was she a candidate but after that surgery she never again complained about her sinuses. "vanity fair" writer buzz bissinger says that defense fits in perfectly with what he's learned about mark weinberger. i believe he thinks all of the surgery he did was necessary. >> weinberger's lawyer had witnesses that said phyllis barnes' cancer was probably not even detectible when she first visited dr. weinberger. in fact, other professionals such as the emergency room doctors who had seen phyllis barnes at the same time had failed to detect her throat cancer. >> i would ask people just to look at it for more than just one side. >> interestingly, suzette dennington, perhaps mark weinberger's most passionate
defender, was not called to testify. >> he advertised just as a sinus specialist. patients called him knowing or suspecting they had sinus problems. why is it unusual that he confirms that, yes, indeed you have that condition and why would he not offer them a surgical solution to their conditions? >> weinberger's attorney closed his case by reminding the jury the case before them only concerned dr. weinberger's treatment of one patient, not that doctor's wealth or reputation or the fact that he had fled the country. with that, the jury began deliberating on how much, if any, money should be paid by mark weinberger and his insurance company to the family of phyllis barnes. there was one more twist still to come, and it could end up costing mark weinberger so much more than money.
>> weinberger believes he's the smartest man in the room, and today he discovered he's not. ♪ here i go again on my own ♪ goin' down the only road i've ever known ♪ ♪ like a drifter i was-- ♪ born to walk alone! keep goin' man! you got it! if you ride, you get it. ♪ here i go again geico motorcycle. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more. with moderate to severe ulceratiyour plans... crohn's, can change in minutes. your head wants to do one thing...
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the skies turned blue over northwest indiana the day the case went toed jury. 25-year-old shawn barnes could feel a burden lifting. >> it's been hanging over my head for at this point almost ten years. >> in the what-if world of her >> i try not to think about it because i feel like the more i think of the what ifs, the more i just hurt myself in the long run. but in a lot of ways i feel like, if i didn't have to live my life completely on my own, maybe i could get somewhere. >> shawn was still a teenager when her mother's death made her an orphan. her inheritance consisted of a small life insurance payout and a pile of debt, including a mortgage on the old house she grew up in.
>> i learned every type of insurance you had to have in about a day and a half and how to pay all of these bills and i cut off my cable and i got a different phone and just how to cut down all of these costs. and it was things that no one else my age ever had to think of. >> she did get help once mark weinberger fled the country and the local press began writing about the people he left behind. with donation, loans, scholarships and part-time jobs, shawn put herself through college. in 2008, she graduated with honors. shawn says even though financial hardships have forced her to put her career hopes on hold, her life has one silver lining. >> i had 17 years with my dad, 19 years with my mom. and even the bad parts were still better than some of the lives i see other people living who have parents. i wish i had both of them still. i wish i had opportunities that other people i see my age having. but i'm glad that it was really good when it was.
>> it was after dark by the time the jury of four men and four women reached their unanimous decision. dr. mark weinberger had committed malpractice in the case of phyllis barnes. >> we're pleased that the jury has held mark weinberger accountable for his misdeeds. >> the jury determined that phyllis' estate should be awarded a total of $13 million in compensatory and punitive damages. >> having this verdict at least puts her to rest in the most positive way, knowing that, you know, in her passing she's bringing this man to justice. >> just how much money shawn barnes will actually see is an open question. indiana caps malpractice awards at $1.25 million. and though mark weinberger's insurance company is on the hook for $250,000, weinberger says he's broke. still, the verdict is a significant first step in ken allen's pledge to bury mark weinberger under a mountain of
debt. >> if you had him in front of him, what would you tell him? >> this is your just desserts, you son of a bitch. >> ken allen is a shark. when he gets a case, he is a dog with a bone. he is determined. suzette dennington, his wife michelle and, yes, monica spaconi, the woman who turned him in. >> imagine, she's turning in the man she loves, maybe the only person she's ever really truly felt comfortable with and loved in her life. >> how deep is the scar for you? >> it's deep. it's deep. deep. >> but monica says she still cares deeply for the man she knew as mark stern and the feeling is evidently mutual. >> i receive a letter from a collection. >> what did it say?
>> i love you. don't forget me or don't forget the mountain. so he search to be real with me. he was i think real with me. >> it's noteworthy that shortly after weinberger's capture in italy, his italian girlfriend began corresponding with his american ex via facebook. >> i was picturing a thin blonde girl who was maybe about 20, 25. i was 25 when i met him. that's what i had picture. >> monica is about the opposite of you. >> yes. we shared one thing in common. he lied to her and he lied to me. and i did everything i could to get him turned in, and she actually is the person that turned him in. so we had a lot in common.
>> it took a few years, but michelle kramer has moved on in her life. she finished her doctorate in psychology and is currently doing a fellowship at a prestigious university hospital on the east coast. remember how she felt about the lawyers who began zeroing in on her ex-husband just before he fled? >> i think it's a bit opportunistic but that's the state of our legal system in this country. >> she's changed her mind about that. >> i thought the lawyers were targeting him and he was just too cowardly to stand up and that's why he left. but i didn't think he actually did any of these things. >> but now you do. >> i do. >> you think the lawyers had a right to go after him. >> oh, yeah. i'm very glad that they did. >> whether he hopes to return to monica in the alps one day or write a book about his time there, mark weinberger will apparently have plenty of time to plan his next step. >> last month, a federal courthouse rejected the plea deal weinberger agreed to with prosecutors saying 4 1/2 years was not nearly enough given the scope of the crime. after the judge rejected the deal, mark weinberger withdrew his guilty plea.
>> it feels so good to know that he's not going to get out anytime in the foreseeable future. i think everybody can rest easier knowing that. and i think my sister would be pleased with the decision. >> weinberger believes that he's the smartest man in the room, and today he discovered he's not. i think this will end for him in jail, and that's our hope. >> as a student of philosophy, mark weinberger is no doubt familiar with the ancient greek philosopher who wrote, a man's character is his fate. >> he was very grandiose, he whereas very entitled. he was haughty at times. >> for michelle kramer whose life changed in the blink of a greek sunset and many former patients and their families, the imprisonment and public shaming
of dr. nose feels like a fate well deserved. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline" friday. . i'm craig melvin. and i'm natalie morales. and this is "dateline." horrible, knowing the person that you love is dead and then you're being looked at for it. >> imagine, you're shaken in the dead of night. >> my ears were ringing. i thought i was dreaming. >> in bed right next to you, your husband, murdered. >> hard to get that one out of your head, isn't it? >> yeah. >> and here's the twist. you're the suspect.