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Florida doctor tied to Menendez indicted for Medicare fraud

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(Bloomberg) — Salomon Melgen, the Florida eye doctor whose gifts and campaign contributions led to the indictment of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, was charged with 76 counts of health care fraud and related offenses.

Melgen submitted false claims, created fraudulent entries on patient medical charts and falsely diagnosed patients to bill for unnecessary tests and procedures, Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said Tuesday in a statement.

Menendez was indicted on corruption charges after accepting almost $1 million in gifts and campaign donations from Melgen. Prosecutors accuse the New Jersey Democrat of trying to help Melgen’s personal and business interests in exchange.

Menendez and Melgen, both 61, were charged in that case in Newark, New Jersey, with bribery and honest services fraud, among other allegations. Menendez was also charged with making false statements in the indictment made public April 1. Both have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to face trial July 13.

Melgen sought Menendez’s help after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruled he had overbilled Medicare by $8.9 million for one drug, Lucentis, in 2007 and 2008, according to earlier statements by Menendez’s office.

Melgen is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in federal court in West Palm Beach on the Medicare fraud charges in the new case.

He is accused of billing Medicare for more than $190 million from January 2008 to December 2013, for which he was reimbursed and paid, through his company, Vitreo Retinal Consultants of the Palm Beaches, more than $105 million. A substantial portion of the reimbursements were obtained through fraudulent billing, prosecutors said.

Among other allegations, Melgen is accused of splitting single-use vials of Lucentis, which is used to treat macular degeneration, into multiple doses and billing Medicare and other insurers at the reimbursement rate for each full dosage.

Annie Lyons, a lawyer for Melgen, declined to comment on the indictment.

“Right now, I’m sorry, but at this point we have no comment,” she said. “You can understand. We just found out.”

The health care fraud counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, prosecutors said.

The New Jersey case is U.S. vs. Menendez, 15-cr-00155, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

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