A federal judge on Thursday sentenced the Florida eye doctor linked to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez’s dropped corruption case to 17 years in prison for defrauding Medicare and stealing $73 million from the system.
Salomon Melgen was sentenced in court for 67 crimes, including health care fraud, submitting false claims and falsifying records in patients’ files.
Melgen was the highest-paid doctor by Medicare in the entire U.S. for five straight years, prosecutors said. He convinced hundreds of older patients to undergo often-painful operations they did not need.
Prosecutors dropped a separate bribery case against Melgen and Menendez last month. Investigators alleged Melgen provided favors and money to the senator in exchange for political access.
Menendez vociferously maintained his innocence throughout, saying Melgen was a longtime friend and that any exchange of favors was done as part of their friendship, not to curry political influence.
In December, the lawmaker indicated he still communicates closely with Melgen and his family.
“Listen, I spent a lot of time with him and his family during the course of our trial. I spent a lot of time with his wife and daughter,” Menendez said.
“I still have the greatest affection for them and I wish him well. … He believes that he was, at the end of the day, wrongfully prosecuted,” the New Jersey Democrat said at the time.
The Senate Ethics Committee has not concluded its inquiry into Menendez’s case.
Democrats reinstated Menendez as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, after the case against him was dropped.
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