Who is Dr Salomon Melgen? Here's why Donald Trump might pardon eye doctor sentenced in $73M Medicare fraud case

In 2018, he was sentenced to 17 years after he was found guilty of stealing $73 million from Medicare


                            Who is Dr Salomon Melgen? Here's why Donald Trump might pardon eye doctor sentenced in $73M Medicare fraud case
Dr Salomón Melgen (abcaburkina.org)

On his final day in office, President Donald Trump is eyeing clemency for Dr Salomon Melgen, the jailed Florida ophthalmologist who was tied to Senator Robert Menendez’s corruption case.

Trump, who will be leaving the office on Wednesday, January 20, will be granting pardons to roughly 100 people, ranging from criminal justice reform-related pardons to political allies, CNN reported on Monday, January 18, citing three anonymous sources. Trump is able to issue pardons up until he leaves office at noon, and it has traditionally been among the final actions before a presidency ends.

The 66-year-old Melgen is currently in jail after being convicted on dozens of counts of health care fraud, including presenting false claims and falsifying patient files. In 2018, he was sentenced to 17 years after he was found guilty of stealing $73 million from Medicare. Prosecutors contended that Melgen stole up to $105 million from the federal insurance program between 2008 and 2013, by giving patients treatments and tests that couldn't help them.

The eye doctor may be most well-known for his extravagant gifts and donations to Menendez, a Democrat, which landed the doctor in court over charges of fraud and bribery in 2013. Melgen and Menendez face a joint trial in the fall in New Jersey on charges the doctor bribed the senator to get help on a variety of issues.

Melgen grew up in the Dominican Republic and emigrated to the United States in 1978, according to court documents. According to his ZocDoc profile, Melgen graduated from Harvard University in 1986. Four years later, according to the Justice Department, he incorporated his clinic, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants of the Palm Beaches, which expanded to four offices and facilitated as many as 100 patients a day.

Many of his patients were Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Justice Department. His specialty in retina issues proved to be lucrative — court documents filed by both defense and prosecutors acknowledge that Melgen grew to be wealthy — but he began to run into legal problems surrounding his business in 2009.

That's when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) discovered that Melgen had overbilled Medicare for $8.9 million for a drug called Lucentis, which is used to treat macular degeneration and other retina problems, according to court documents.

Two years later, in 2011, Melgen's business was slapped with a $11 million lien from the IRS. In 2015, Melgen was formally charged with more than 76 counts of health care fraud and making false statements, according to the Justice Department. He was found guilty on all charges by a jury in April of this year and surrendered his medical license following the conviction, according to court documents.

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