Florida eye doctor found guilty of scamming Medicare

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Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen arrives to the Federal court in Newark, New Jersey

(Reuters) – A U.S. jury on Friday found a Florida eye doctor guilty of defrauding Medicare by as much as $105 million by using false claims, including charging for eye tests of blind patients, according to a federal court document.

The ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen, is also part of a separate corruption case in which prosecutors say he bribed U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey.

The bribery case is set for trial on Aug. 23. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Menendez’s bid to have the case involving donations from Melgen thrown out.

Federal prosecutors in that case say Melgen contributed $700,000 to political committees that helped the senator win re-election in 2012.

Menendez is not a defendant in the Florida case, which involved a 32-day trial in West Palm Beach.

The eye doctor was found guilty on 67 counts of federal health care fraud against him, according a verdict sheet filed in U.S. District Court. The Palm Beach Post newspaper reported that Melgen was originally charged with 77 counts, but not all made it to the 12-member jury.

Sentencing was set for July 14. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and Melgen’s lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Melgen, 62, was accused of fraudulently taking as much as $105 million from Medicare. Prosecutors say he gave patients unneeded tests and treatments from 2008 to 2013 that could not help them. They accused him of filing numerous claims to Medicare for tests conducted on patients with prosthetic eyes or who were blind.

Defense attorneys for Melgen said he used aggressive medical tactics as he tried to save his patients’ eyesight and that sloppy billing led to what looked like fraud.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, Laila Kearney and Ian Simpson; Editing by David Gregorio)

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