Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen was sentenced to 17 years in prison on Thursday for Medicare fraud.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra issued the sentence and ordered Melgen, 63, to pay $42.6 million in restitution to Medicare, calling his case one of the biggest Medicare fraud cases in the nation.
"The reprehensible conduct of Salomon Melgen is a disgrace to the medical profession," head of the FBI's Miami office Robert Lasky said. "Not satisfied with being a successful ophthalmologist committed to treating his patients' legitimate medical conditions, Melgen devised a scheme to enrich himself by defrauding Medicare and other benefit programs to the tune of tens of millions of dollars."
Melgen was convicted in April of 67 charges of healthcare fraud for falsely diagnosing and treating dozens of elderly patients for wet macular degeneration in order to collect $73 million from Medicare and other insurers.
The unnecessary treatments resulted in Melgen becoming the highest-paid Medicare doctor between 2008 and 2013
He faced a possible sentence of up to 24 and a half years in prison, but Marra opted for a less severe sentence citing the doctor's age and the unlikelihood he will commit future crimes.
Federal prosecutors said they plan to return to court seeking restitution for Melgen's patients and other insurers in addition to the $42.6 million for Medicare.
Melgen was separately charged with bribery in New Jersey along with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., regarding accusations he gave the senator gifts including expensive vacations.
Both Melgen and Menendez were acquitted by U.S. District Court Judge William Walls in January, as the judge said there wasn't enough evidence to prove that $660,000 in contributions from Melgen to Menendez's campaign were part of a bribe.
Menendez offered support for his "dear friend Sal" who he expects to continue to fight the case.
"While I am not familiar with their legal options, I do know Sal has maintained his innocence and will continue to fight for justice in his case," he said,