Trial Starts for Prominent Eye Doctor Tied to Dem Senator’s Alleged Corruption
The trial for Salomon Melgen, the prominent Florida eye doctor who was connected to Sen. Bob Menedez's (D., N.J.) alleged corruption, began on Thursday to consider charges that he defrauded Medicare and deceived patients.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carolyn Bell said in her opening statement that Melgen stole millions of dollars from Medicare between 2008 and 2013 by falsely diagnosing patients and performing unnecessary treatments, the Associated Press reported.
"This is a case about a doctor who lied to Medicare for money," Bell told the 12-member panel. He lied about his patients' diagnoses, she said. He lied about the tests he ran, she said. He lied about their prognoses, she said. All of it, she said, aimed at making Melgen rich, as many of these falsely diagnosed and treated patients could net him $72,000 each annually.
Medicare paid Melgen, 62, because it "relied on the integrity of the doctor," she said, but the government's investigation found that in many cases he "lied," using that word or a variation about two dozen times during her address.
Melgen's attorney, Matthew Menchel, pushed back against Bell's assertion, arguing the doctor's actions were not criminal but "aggressive medicine."
"There is an old saying that when you look at the world through a dirty window, everything looks dirty," Menchel told the jury. "[Prosecutors] turned a blind eye to evidence they didn't like."
Melgen will be facing another trial in the fall, when he and Melendez will be tried for alleged bribery. Federal prosecutors say the New Jersey senator got visas for the married Melgen's foreign mistresses and intervened on behalf of Melgen when Medicare officials began investigating him. Menendez also allegedly pressured the State Department to assist Melgen with a business dispute with the Dominican government.
Melgen allegedly invited Menendez to go with him on trips to France and his other residence at a Dominican resort.
Regarding Thursday's trial, several of Melgen's charges relate to his false diagnosis of patients with age-related macular degeneration, which is one of the most common causes of vision loss in people 65 and older, the AP reported.
Most ARMD patients have the "dry" variety, which is caused by retinal cells breaking down and cannot be treated. Fewer have the "wet" variety, which involves bleeding beneath the retina. It can be treated by injections.
Prosecutors say the Dominican-born doctor falsely diagnosed many patients with ARMD so he could run unneeded tests. They say he also falsely claimed patients with dry ARMD had wet ARMD, giving them multiple injections that had no benefit.
Bell showed the jury several photographs of Melgen's patients that he allegedly used to defraud Medicare. She said that Melgen fooled patients, who had untreatable dry ARMD, into going through useless and sometimes painful tests that would be profitable for the doctor. The patients were also told that if they came back for more treatments, then they would get better, which turned out to be false in many cases, according to the AP.
"This highly trained, Harvard and Yale educated specialist would falsely diagnose patients to justify injecting eyes that did not need it and lied to Medicare about it," Bell said.
Menchel said other doctors who have looked at Melgen's diagnoses and treatments don't always agree with him, but understand what he was attempting. Other eye doctors sent Melgen their hardest, most desperate patients because they knew of his "cutting edge" treatments that sometimes worked, Menchel said. He said a totally blind person who regains even a flicker of peripheral vision would feel the treatment is worth it.
"Many of Dr. Melgen's patients loved him, not just liked him, because he helped them," Menchel said.
Melgen faces up to 610 years in prison if convicted. He is free on $18 million bond.
Schumer and Gillibrand Helped Athlete Being Held on Sex Charges Obtain Visa
Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) helped a snowshoe racer from India gain entry into the U.S. to compete, but he is now being held in a New York jail on sex charges as of Friday.
Tanveer Hussain was charged with the felony of first-degree sexual abuse and the misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child after Saranac Lake Village police received a report of the alleged incident, according to Fox News.
Hussain was allegedly "engaging in a passionate kiss" with a 12-year-old girl. Other accusations claim he was touching her in an intimate area over her clothes.
He was arrested on Wednesday for the incident which allegedly occurred on Monday.
Brian Barrett, Hussain's lawyer, pleaded not guilty for his client, claiming the 12-year-old girl "had been following him around all week."
Hussain's application for a visa was denied last month by U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. Hussain was attempting to obtain a visa in order to compete in the World Snowshoe Championship in upstate New York.
Both Schumer and Gillibrand's offices were contacted by local officials on Hussain's behalf in an attempt to obtain a visa. In return, both of the Democratic Senators' offices reached out to the New Delhi embassy. Hussain was then allowed to reapply for the visa which he was eventually granted.
"Obviously, this is a troubling matter for him — these are troubling accusations," Barrett told Fox News.
"He is in good spirits and he looks forward to fighting these charges," Barrett said of his client.
Schumer's office made a statement to Fox News regarding helping Hussain with his visa.
"As we often do when local communities ask for help, at the request of Saranac Lake we helped to navigate the visa process so these athletes could compete at a local competition," the statement says. "The charges against one member of the group, who is accused of a serious crime and abusing our visa program, are extremely troubling. If he’s found guilty, he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law."
Gillibrand's office also responded to Fox with a similar response.
Hussain is being held on a $5,000 cash bail or $10,000 bond at St. Armand Town Court as of Friday.
Note: We at Friends of Liberty cannot make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information.
Friends of Liberty is a non-partisan, non-profit organization with the mission to protect and defend individual freedoms and individual rights.
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Deeply, deeply troubling. Senator Schumer has fallen sadly short of the standards and ideals we associate with statesmanship and responsible public service. Accordingly, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that, for the greater good of the great state he represents, as well as the integrity of the United States Senate, Senator Schumer must resign his office.
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