In surprise move, Justice Department dismisses corruption charges against Sen. Bob Menendez, co-defendant

justice scales and gavel
Florida eye surgeon Salomon Melgin still faces sentencing in a Medicare fraud case that could send him to prison for decades. (Image: Getty/BrianAJackson)

The Department of Justice yesterday dismissed all the remaining charges against Sen. Robert Menendez and the Florida eye doctor who was a co-defendant in the corruption case.

The motion to dismiss the charges came less than two weeks after prosecutors said they planned to retry Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, according to The New York Times. It now allows Menendez to run for re-election without a second trial hanging over his head.

The first trial ended in a mistrial in November when a jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked in the high-profile bribery case against Menendez and his wealthy friend Salomon Melgen, M.D., a West Palm Beach eye doctor.

The decision by the Justice Department yesterday to dismiss the charges followed on the heels of last week’s decision by a judge to throw out seven of the 18 counts against Menendez and Melgen, including bribery counts stemming from accusations that Menendez traded his political influence to help Melgen in exchange for luxury vacations, flights on the doctor’s private plane and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

All charges against Melgen were also dismissed by the Justice Department, but that doesn’t let the eye doctor off the legal hook, as he still could be sentenced to decades in prison.

Melgen, 63, a West Palm Beach retina specialist, was convicted last April of 67 charges including healthcare fraud, submitting false claims and falsifying patient records. He was found guilty of Medicare fraud for falsely diagnosing and treating elderly patients for eye ailments they did not have and faced a sentencing hearing in January. 

At the five-day sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued that Melgen stole $136 million from Medicare and asked for a 30-year sentence. Melgen’s attorney said the government has only proven the doctor stole about $64,000 and asked for a lighter sentence. The judge in the case has not yet set a sentencing date.