Florida doctor convicted of Medicare fraud, focus now on senator accused of political corruption

A Florida eye doctor was found guilty of Medicare fraud, and attention now shifts to a bribery case involving a New Jersey senator.

A Florida ophthalmologist, who collected more money from Medicare than any other physician in the country in 2012, was found guilty on Friday of up to $105 million in Medicare fraud.

Now attention turns to a political corruption case, as the conviction increases the likelihood that federal prosecutors could pressure the doctor to testify against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez in an upcoming bribery trial, according to the Associated Press.

On Friday, a federal jury found Salomon Melgen, M.D., guilty on all 67 counts, including healthcare fraud, submitting false claims and falsifying patient records. He faces 15 to 20 years in prison, unless he offers or accepts a deal before his July 14 sentencing, the Associated Press said.

Melgen, 62, now faces a September 6 trial on corruption charges in New Jersey, along with Menendez, who denies any wrongdoing, the news wire said. Both men face charges that the doctor bribed the senator for favors, including intervention in a billing dispute with Medicare.

Melgen collected $21 million from Medicare in 2012, at the height of the fraud scheme which took place between 2008 and 2013. Prosecutors said during that time Melgen stole up to $105 million by performing unnecessary tests and treatments on mostly elderly and disabled patients, prosecutors said.

Melgen’s attorneys said he made billing and treatment mistakes but they were unintentional, the AP said.

Menendez is accused of accepting gifts from politically active Melgen. Government prosecutors say Menendez tried to use his power to influence an investigation into millions of dollars of improper claims from Melgen’s practice after the physician showered him with gifts and vacations.

“As we have known for the past two years, the issues involved in Dr. Melgen’s case in South Florida had no bearing on the allegations made against the Senator, and this verdict will have no impact on him,” Menendez’s defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement.

Melgen's case focused solely on the day-to-day operations of his medical practice and the private care of his patients, information that Menendez could not be aware of, Lowell said: "When all of the facts are heard, he is fully confident that a jury will agree and he will be vindicated."