Dominican-born Melgen: From lavishness to pleas for mercy
West Palm Beach.- With blue garb and his wrists cuffed, underlining how far he’s now from his once-lavish lifestyle, Dr. Solomon Melgen appealed to a federal judge Thursday for leniency when he’s sentenced, convicted for bilking millions from Medicare, by treating dozens of elderly patients with a degenerative vision disease they didn’t have.
“I know I made mistakes,” said the Dominican-born, wealthy and politically connected ophthalmologist from Palm Beach County to US District judge Kenneth Marra. “But it was always my intention to do everything possible to help my patients (…) I hope you can see the way to have mercy.”
Melgen’s brief statement capped five days of hearings to determine whether he would spend up to 30 years behind bars after he was convicted in April on 67 counts of health care fraud.
Apologizing to his “family, friends and the community,” the 63-year-old doctor also made a veiled reference to infidelity, which featured prominently in his recent influence peddling trial in New Jersey with his old friend, US senator Robert Menéndez.
“In my personal life, sometimes I got lost,” he said as his wife and 33-year-old daughter watched.
Due to the complex issues surrounding the case, Marra said he needs time to investigate before announcing his ruling. After making sure that prosecutors in New Jersey don’t have immediate plans to reprocess Melgen and Menéndez, he promised to hand down a quick ruling.
The New Jersey trial ended in Nov. when jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision. It included allegations that in exchange for campaign contributions, the powerful Democrat pressed federal officials to help Melgen get foreign girlfriends into the US.