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.
Dr. Salomon Melgen, a retinal specialist in Palm Beach County, Florida, was sentenced Thursday to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay $42.6 million on charges he bilked Medicare out of $73 million by administering unneeded diagnostic tests, laser treatments and eye injections.
Melgen became the highest-paid Medicare doctor in the country by having patients undergo unnecessary operations, which some compared to torture.
Melgen was convicted in April of 67 charges of healthcare fraud for falsely diagnosing and treating dozens of elderly patients for wet macular degeneration in order to collect $73 million from Medicare and other insurers. He could have given Melgen a life sentence. In return, they said, Menendez interceded with Medicare officials investigating his practice, obtained visas for Melgen's foreign mistresses, and pressured the State Department to intervene in a business dispute he had with the Dominican government. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., regarding accusations he gave the senator gifts including expensive vacations.
After a jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges against Menendez, prosecutors said on January 31 that they were dropping their bribery case against him.
During Melgen's two-month Medicare fraud trial, prosecutors argued that any doctor could make occasional billing mistakes, but Melgen's were too numerous to be honest. He also billed Medicare for a variety of illegitimate operations, including treatment on the fake eyes of one-eyed patients.
"The reprehensible conduct of Salomon Melgen is a disgrace to the medical profession", head of the FBI's Miami office Robert Lasky said.
He was soon hosting Democratic fundraisers at his 6,500-square-foot North Palm Beach home, and eventually became friends with Menendez.