Doctor Tied to Menendez Charged On Medicare Fraud

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -

A Florida doctor charged with corruption alongside New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez was sent back to jail for a second night Wednesday while his lawyers try to negotiate his bond over allegations of Medicare fraud.

Dr. Salomon Melgen, 60, appeared briefly in federal court in West Palm Beach, shackled and slightly disheveled and in a navy blue prison jumpsuit. Two weeks after being charged in New Jersey for alleged corruption linked to his close friend Menendez, the ophthalmologist was indicted on 76 counts of Medicare fraud Tuesday, accused of trying to bilk the program out of as much as $190 million.

In the New Jersey case, prosecutors claim Menendez intervened on his friend’s behalf to gain visas for friends of Melgen’s, press Dominican officials to honor a lucrative port contract for the doctor, and influence Medicare officials on billing disputes. In exchange, Melgen showered him with flights, vacations and donations.

The Florida case claims Melgen falsely diagnosed many patients with serious eye conditions, allowing him to then perform unnecessary procedures for which he would bill Medicare.

The total maximum prison time comes to a staggering 610 years.

The case will test Melgen’s loyalty to Menendez, with whom he’s been friends for decades, with prosecutors likely seeking the doctor’s testimony against the senator. The senator has said he and Melgen celebrated holidays and weddings together, mourned together at funerals and exchanged gifts on birthdays.