Dr. Salomon Melgen, the Florida opthalmologist indicted on public corruption charges along with Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), remains in a Florida jail on separate Medicare fraud charges after his attorneys were unable to provide a letter from the government of his native Dominican Republic promising to extradite him in the event he flees there.
Melgen, his family, and attorneys were hopeful that a Monday hearing before U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins would end with his release on bond after U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled last Friday that he could be released provided certain conditions were met.
Marra left Hopkins with the ability to determine the size and conditions of the bond.
Hopkins, however, determined on Monday that he needed additional information before issuing a final ruling. In addition to obtaining the promise of extradition from the government of the Dominican Republic, the court wanted to obtain security interests in all of Melgen’s assets in both the United States and the Dominican Republic.
Melgen’s attorney, Matthew Menchel, told the court on Monday that he would be able to deliver additional information on Melgen’s accounts and assets by Wednesday, a deadline set by Hopkins. As the Palm Beach Post reported:
By Wednesday, Menchel said he would have more information about bank accounts and the value of a house and other property Melgen owns overseas. He insisted Melgen controls the assets that were put in irrevocable trusts for tax purposes. He is also to have the letter Marra demanded from Dominican officials, pledging they would extradite Melgen.
The Post reported on Wednesday that Menchel told them that letter “is key to his release.”
But when that deadline came, Menchel was unable to deliver the letter from the Dominican government promising to extradite Melgen in the event he flees there.
He was able to provide additional information on Melgen’s assets, but it is unclear if the court or prosecutors found that information sufficient.
The failure of the Dominican government to provide such a letter gives credence to the fear, voiced by federal prosecutors, that if Melgen is released on bond he will flee to the Dominican, never to return to the United States. Breitbart News contacted Melgen’s attorney Menchel for comment, but did not receive a response.
The failure to provide security interest in all of Melgen’s U.S. and Dominican assets is more understandable, as his American assets are tied up in a series of trusts for his children, and the extent of his Dominican assets is not entirely known. Given time, Menchel may be able to provide sufficient security in these assets to satisfy the court.
As Fox News reported:
At Wednesday’s three-hour hearing, U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins indicated that he wants to make sure Melgen won’t have access to his villa and other assets in the Dominican Republic after being released on bail.
Another complication stems from money in trust funds for his children that Melgen may not have access to.
“This is not a typical bail case,” Menchel said at one point.
More troubling for Melgen, however, is the failure to secure the extradition promise from the Dominican government. That failure has fueled speculation that Melgen is attempting to persuade the court to release him without the promise, thereby guaranteeing a diplomatic escape from further imprisonment and trials in the U.S. should he manage to make it to the Dominican Republic.
As the Post reported:
At the hearing, prosecutors said Melgen’s family valued his jewelry at approximately $120,000 and the artwork at around $4 million, but added they want to verify those numbers.
Melgen’s Dominican Republic properties, valued at around $2.4 million, according to his lawyer, Matthew Menchel, were a source of concern to both the prosecution and Magistrate Judge James Hopkins. The question is how to ensure Melgen has no access to these assets should he flee there.
Hopkins said $3 million would be an acceptable amount for bail, if all of Melgen’s assets, including the Dominican Republic assets, can be part of the deal.
“How the Dominican Republic assets are tied up has major impact on what bond I’m ultimately going to set,” said Hopkins.
Prosecutors have asked for the court to set the bond at $20 million, so Hopkins’ willingness to accept $3 million is a small victory for defense. It is a hollow one, at present, however, until the court determines the assets offered as security total $3 million and the extradition promise letter is received from the Dominican government.
At present, prospects for Melgen’s release on bond are not good, though that could change if the underlying requests are met. Unless something in that arena changes, it appears appears likely that Melgen will remain in jail until his Medicare fraud trial begins in February of 2016.
According to his family and attorney, Melgen’s health has suffered during his eight weeks behind bars. He has lost 30 pounds, one tooth, and is in need of prostate cancer screening.