A judge has ordered ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, M.D., charged with 76 counts of healthcare fraud and entwined in a corruption case with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), to remain in jail until his trial in February 2016, according to the Palm Beach Post. Federal prosecutors successfully argued that Melgen was a flight risk due to his ties to the Dominican Republic.
Melgen's attorneys argued that the physician could have fled the country already, since he was aware of his impending indictment with Menendez. Still, prosecutors contended that, now that Melgen's business is closed and he is no longer bringing in close to $1 million a month, he has no reason to stay in the U.S. They also pointed to Melgen's ties to officials in Dominican Republican, as well as the fact that the U.S. government may be unable to extradite him if he leaves.
The hearing was rife with tension as U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins accused one of Melgen's lawyers of attempting to remove him from the case, complete with an expletive-laden sentiment from the attorney, overheard by a U.S. Marshal. Ultimately, Hopkins ruled that Melgen's crimes were too severe, and the risk was too large, to allow him to post bond.
"There are no combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant," he said, according to the Post.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Menendez push for his trial involving federal corruption charges to be moved from New Jersey to the District of Columbia, according to Politico. In a motion submitted on Monday, defense attorneys argued that the media attention in New Jersey has tainted the jury pool, and that a D.C. trial would allow Menendez to continue his duties as a Senator. Furthermore, many of the witnesses are located in D.C.
The relationship between Menendez and Melgen will be put to the test during the corruption trial, as prosecutors argue that Menendez took campaign donations and gifts from Melgen in exchange for favors, including attempting to persuade Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials to back off a Medicare fraud investigation.