While blasting federal prosecutors, a lawyer for Palm Beach County retinal specialist Dr. Salomon Melgen on Wednesday ruefully cheered the news that the physician would not be forced to endure yet another trial with his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
While the 63-year-old Melgen could still be sentenced to decades in prison after being convicted of 67 charges of health care fraud in U.S. District Court in West Palm Beach, his attorney said federal prosecutors in New Jersey finally made the right call in deciding not to pursue the doctor and Menendez on influence-peddling charges.
“Dr. Melgen is now and has always been innocent of the charges brought in New Jersey,” his attorney, Kirk Ogrosky said in a statement. “He did not ever give anything to his best friend of over 20 years with an expectation that he would get something in return.”
Still, he noted, that Melgen has suffered immeasurably. He endured a roughly six-week trial on charges that he bilked Medicare out of more than $100 million by falsely diagnosing and treating scores of elderly patients for eye ailments they didn’t have. Then, he endured a second roughly two-month trial with Menendez in New Jersey that in November ended in a hung jury.
“Five years ago today FBI agents started this ill-faded adventure that destroyed my client’s life when the raided his office in West Palm Beach,” Ogrowsky said. “We take no pleasure in seeing justice done at this stage in a case that should never have been brought.”
“All that said, justice today is better than continuing on to inevitable acquittals on the remaining counts,” he continued. “We hope that this type of merit-less case is never again brought by (the Department of Justice).”
At the conclusion of a five-day sentencing hearing on Jan. 4, federal prosecutors urged U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to hand Melgen a 30-year sentence. Ogrowsky and Matthew Menchel, who also represents Melgen, said that would be tantamount to a life sentence. While they didn’t say how long Melgen should serve, they indicated it should be far less.
Marra has not yet set a sentencing date.