February 22, 2018 / 6:31 PM / 8 months ago

Florida doctor linked to New Jersey senator sentenced in fraud case

(Reuters) - A Florida eye doctor linked by prosecutors to New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez in an unsuccessful bribery case against him was sentenced on Thursday to 17 years in prison after an unrelated Medicare fraud conviction, the U.S. Justice Department said.

FILE PHOTO - Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen arrives to the Federal court in Newark, New Jersey April 2, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen was also ordered to repay $42 million to Medicare following an eight-week jury trial, in which he was convicted last April on 67 counts of health care fraud and related charges, U.S. Attorney for Southern Florida Benjamin Greenberg said.

The sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in West Palm Beach, Florida, also calls for three years of supervised release after Melgen serves his prison time, and the possibility of more restitution to insurance companies and patients, Greenberg said.

Prosecutors had accused Melgen, 63, of fraudulently taking as much as $105 million from Medicare. He gave patients unneeded tests and treatments from 2008 to 2013 that could not help them, and filed numerous claims to Medicare for tests conducted on patients with prosthetic eyes or who were blind, they said.

Melgen, who practiced in Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties, was arrested in 2015 following a multi-year investigation.

Federal prosecutors in New Jersey had argued that Melgen’s $660,000 in political contributions to Menendez’s 2012 reelection campaign were part of a separate fraudulent scheme.

But U.S. District Judge William Walls in Newark, New Jersey, threw out some of the bribery charges against Menendez, finding the prosecutors had failed to connect Melgen’s contribution to actions taken by the New Jersey Democrat.

After a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges against Menendez, prosecutors said on Jan. 31 that they were dropping their bribery case against him.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Bernadette Baum

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