A federal judge magistrate ordered that Palm Beach eye doctor Salomon Melgen be detained before trial. Melgen, who was was indicted on Thursday for Medicare fraud, has been called a flight risk by prosecutors. Melgen is tied to New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez's corruption scandal after the eye doctor allegedly showered the Senator with donations and lavish gifts to in order to gain Menendez's favor in Congress with Medicare fraud claims.
On Thursday, Menendez pleaded not guilty to Medicare fraud charges.
Melgen, meanwhile, is facing 76 counts of Medicare fraud and falsifying medical records. According to a U.S. Southern District of Florida Court indictment, Melgen pocketed $105 million after billing Medicare $190 million between January 2008 and December 2013.
Melgen's North Palm Beach ophthalmologist practice often treated 100 patients a day, the 68-page indictment says. Federal prosecutors say that Melgen allegedly falsified records and ordered unnecessary procedures and tests for patients.
Moreover, during that time, Melgen allegedly gifted Menendez with private-jet rides for weekend getaways to resorts in Florida while Menendez helped the doctor fight off Medicare charges from federal regulators.
Menendez also allegedly helped secure travel visas for three of Melgen's girlfriends.
The indictment goes on to say that Menendez failed to disclose gifts received from Melgen, including multiple private-jet flights, campaign donations, and visits to Melgen's Dominican Republic resort villa,
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On Thursday, assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bell told Magistrate Judge James Hopkins that it would be very easy for Melgen to flee to his native Dominican Republic, adding that the doctor owns a boat, has plenty of money on hand and plenty of connections in D.R.
“His ties to the Dominican Republic are very strong,” she said. "He could flee to the Dominican Republic or to another country for that matter."
Melgen, meanwhile, is currently being held in the Palm Beach County Jail. His attorneys have requested to have him over closer to them in Miami.
Negotiations over his bond are ongoing.