Salomon Melgen

Trump Commutes Sentence of Florida Doctor Connected to NJ Senator

A Florida doctor connected to Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey was among the 143 people now-former President Donald Trump granted clemency hours before leaving office.

Telemundo

In his last hours as president, Donald Trump granted clemency to 143 people, pardoning 73 and commuting sentences for 70 more, NBC News reports.

Among the group announced after midnight Wednesday were former chief strategist Steve Bannon, rappers Kodak Black and Lil Wayne, and a Florida doctor connected to a failed federal case against a New Jersey Senator.

Before leaving the White House for his resort in Palm Beach, Trump commuted the prison sentence of Florida Dr. Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor who became the nation's highest Medicare doctor and made millions from what prosecutors said was a fraud scheme.

Melgen amassed wealth and became the highest-paid Medicare doctor in 2012, when he raked in $21 million. Federal prosecutors said he billed Medicare for a total of $73 million in treatments that had no benefits, even claiming to have completed procedures on prosthetic eyes.

But the doctor may be more widely known for a failed federal case involving he and sitting Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ.

Prosecutors claimed the wealthy doctor took Menendez on private jet flights and offered stays in luxury hotels, and contributed hundreds of thousands in donations to pro-Menendez groups. Prosecutors argued that Menendez's actions in turn - lobbying for a Medicare dispute, intervening in a port issue in the Dominican Republic, and helping obtain visas for the doctor's girlfriends.

Menendez's attorneys successfully argued that the gifts weren't bribes, but displays of friendship between men who were like brothers.

The trial ended in a mistrial, with 10 of 12 jurors wanting to acquit Menendez, and 2 set on convicting him. Prosecutors decided not to retry Menendez.

Melgen was later given a 17-year prison sentence in the separate Medicare case before Trump commuted it.

"Dr. Melgen was convicted of health care fraud and false statements. Numerous patients and friends testify to his generosity in treating all patients, especially those unable to pay or unable to afford healthcare insurance," the Trump White House wrote in a statement, noting that Menendez supported the act.

Menendez told NorthJersey.com he gave Trump input on offering clemency for his "old friend" Melgen, along with some patients and local Hispanic groups.

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