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Dr. Salomon Melgen gets 17 years for defrauding Medicare at least $73M: 5 insights

South Fla.-based ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, MD, received a 17-year sentence Feb. 22 for stealing at least $73 million from Medicare, the SunSentinel reports.

Here are five things to know:

1. Dr. Melgen was previously convicted of 67 crimes, including healthcare fraud, submitting false claims and falsifying records in patients' files. He has been in custody since his April 28, 2017 conviction.

2. According to the prosecution, he became the highest-paid Medicare physician in the U.S. between 2008 and 2013 by giving elderly patients unnecessary tests and treatments they did not need.

3. Prosecutors argued while any physician could make occasional billing mistakes, Dr. Melgen made too many to be honest. Among other things, he frequently billed Medicare for tests and treatment on the nonexistent eyes of one-eyed patients, and split single-use vials of an expensive eye drug into four doses when there was enough extra medicine in each, billing Medicare separately for each injection.

4. Melgen was ordered to pay $42.6 million in restitution to Medicare; he could be ordered to pay more in the future.

5. Dr. Melgen became politically active in 1997 after treating Fla. Governor Democratic Lawton Chiles, D, who appointed him to a state board. Dr. Melgen began hosting Democratic fundraisers at his home and befriended Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J. In a separate trial, Dr. Melgen was accused of bribing the senator, paying for trips they took to France and his home at a resort in the Dominican Republic; Sen. Menendez reimbursed Dr. Melgen $58,500 after the trips became public knowledge.

6. In exchange for the gifts, Sen. Menendez allegedly interceded with Medicare officials investigating Dr. Melgen's practice, obtained visas for Melgen's foreign mistresses and pressured the State Department to intervene in a business dispute Dr. Melgen had with the Dominican government.

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