On Friday, Dr. Salomon Melgen was found guilty of 67 counts of Medicare fraud. According to federal sentencing guidelines, he faces 15-20 years on prison.
In the end, Melgen’s defense consisted of arguments that he was a lousy and incompetent doctor, but not a fraudster. Given the choice, the jury went with fraud, although both could certainly be true.
Melgen will also be tried on bribery charges in New Jersey in September, along with Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Of course, one way for Melgen to reduce his sentence in the Medicare case would be to testify against Menendez in the bribery case.
The bribery charges relate to Menendez’ attempts to derail the Medicare fraud investigation and for pushing a port security deal in the Dominican Republic that would have provided a windfall for Melgen. In return, the indictment alleges, Melgen provided Menendez with private jet ride rides, Dominican vacations, and donations to his legal defense fund.
The port security deal was exposed by NLPC’s Tom Anderson through a front-page New York Times story on February 1, 2013. NLPC provided information to the Times on an exclusive basis, apparently prompting the federal criminal investigation.
Whether Melgen will turn on Menendez and whether Menendez is convicted have national implications. Should he leave office, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose term ends on January 18, 2018, could appoint a replacement, including himself. Christie could also leave the seat open until the following November election.
Either way, it would have a profound impact on the Senate, where Republican hold 52 seats.
Menendez has arrogantly refused to resign and is raising money for a 2018 re-election campaign. So far, he has been an embarrassment for the national Democratic party, but he has done little real damage. That may be about to change.