Dr. Salomon Melgen, a staunch financial supporter of Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), is free from Palm Beach County Jail in Florida, after attorneys secured his release on an $18 million bond.
When the smiling ophthalmologist, accompanied by his wife and daughter, walked free, it was the first time he has been out of jail since his arrest April 14 on federal charges of Medicare fraud. Federal prosecutors claim Melgen cheated taxpayers out of $105 million in Medicare reimbursements he received between 2007 and 2014.
In 2012, the $21 million Melgen received in Medicare reimbursement was the most received by any physician in the country.
Melgen also faces public corruption charges, along with his close friend Sen. Menendez in a separate federal case filed in New Jersey. Melgen was arrested on that case on April 1, but was granted bond.
The key fact that ties both cases against Melgen together is his $700,000 donation (made through his wholly owned business) to the Senate Majority PAC, a SuperPAC closely affiliated with then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2012.
According to the indictment in the public corruption case, $600,000 of that donation was earmarked to help Menendez’s successful 2012 re-election campaign. In return, Melgen secured the assistance of Senator Menendez in lobbying then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to rule in his favor in an ongoing dispute over $8 million in Medicare overbillings in 2007 and 2008.
Sebelius did not intervene on Melgen’s behalf.
Reid played a key role in setting up and participating in the August 2012 meeting in which Menendez lobbied Sebelius.
Melgen’s first legal team initially anticipated that he would be released on bond on the Medicare fraud charges when he was arrested back in April. They soon discovered that U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins had a significantly different view, and denied bond to Melgen because he considered him a significant flight risk. The wealthy Melgen has substantial assets and properties in his native Dominican Republic, where he is well connected at the highest political level.
Melgen’s first legal team fumbled the ball badly when one of them allegedly was heard cursing the judge after an unfavorable ruling on the bond request.
Melgen promptly fired his entire legal team, replacing them with seasoned veterans Matthew Menchel in Florida and Kirk Ogrosky, a partner at the prestigious law firm of Arnold and Porter, in Washington, D.C.
Menchel worked diligently to secure Melgen’s release. He appealed Magistrate Hopkins’ denial of bond to U.S. Federal District Judge Kenneth Marra, who reversed Hopkins’ initial decision, and asked him to establish new conditions of release.
The bond requirements were complex, and required verification of Melgen’s substantial assets. In addition, Hopkins required a promise from the Dominican government that Melgen would be extradited back to the United States in the event he fled there.
There was no specific confirmation at the time of Melgen’s release on bond that such assurances have been received.
Melgen’s attorney was pleased with the decision of the court to release his client on bond.
“We did it. We’ve got an agreed order,” the Palm Beach Post reported Menchel told U.S. Magistrate Hopkins last Thursday.
Melgen’s future, however, remains uncertain.
Despite being temporarily freed on bond, he faces a trial date in a Florida federal court on the Medicare fraud charges later in 2015, and a trial date on the public corruption charges in a New Jersey federal court in February, 2016.
Attorneys for Melgen and Senator Menendez unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a change in venue for the public corruption trial from New Jersey to Washington, D.C.