MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida doctor Salomon Melgen, who has been charged with corruption along with New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, was indicted on Tuesday on Medicare fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami said.
Melgen, 61, an ophthalmologist in North Palm Beach, was charged with 46 counts of healthcare fraud, as well as 19 counts of fraudulent claims, and 11 counts of making false statements relating to health care, prosecutors said in a statement.
Menendez and Melgen, who are close friends, were both charged in an alleged political corruption conspiracy earlier this month in New Jersey.
Menendez, a leading foreign policy voice in Congress, pleaded not to corruption charges earlier this month during a federal court appearance. He is charged with accepting up to $1 million worth of lavish gifts from Melgen in exchange for political favors. He was released without bail.
Melgen also pleaded not guilty to the corruption charges and was released on a $1.5 million bond.
Melgen’s lawyer, Anne Marie McPartland-Lyons, declined to comment on Tuesday evening.
He is due to appear in court on Wednesday in West Palm Beach.
Tuesday’s indictment alleged that between 2004 and 2013, Melgen participated in a scheme to defraud Medicare and other healthcare programs, by submitting false claims and medical charts, according to prosecutors.
Between January 2008 and December 2013, Melgen billed Medicare more than $190 million, for which he was reimbursed and paid, more than $105 million, they said.
“Melgen is alleged to have falsely diagnosed patients with serious eye conditions, notably age-related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD) and retinal disorders,” it said.
Melgen is alleged to have made “exorbitant and improper profits” from prescribing the drug Lucentis, which is used for the treatment of macular degeneration.
“The defendant would purchase the drug from the manufacturer, Genentech, arrange to have the ‘single-use’ vials split into multiple doses and administered to multiple patients, many of whom were falsely diagnosed ... and then separately bill Medicare and other health care providers at the reimbursement rate for each full dosage,” the statement said.
Melgen also falsified patient files, including false diagnoses, as well as fictitious drawings and diagrams that misrepresented the condition of the patients’ eyes, prosecutors said.
The indictment also alleges that he prepared fictitious reports regarding his “abnormal billing practices,” in response to audit inquiries from Medicare.
Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler