Menendez intervened in federal audit on behalf of friend Melgen
February 7th, 2013
02:48 PM ET
7 years ago

Menendez intervened in federal audit on behalf of friend Melgen

(CNN) - Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez questioned decisions made by federal health officials about his friend and major donor Salomon Melgen, an eye doctor tied to a recent scandal surrounding Menendez, a source close to the senator confirmed Thursday.

First reported by The Washington Post, Menendez "raised concerns" with the officials' conclusion that Melgen had overbilled the federal government by $8.9 million in Medicare and Medicaid payments when treating patients at his West Palm Beach clinic.

In 2009, the New Jersey senator first contacted federal authorities about the government's assessment of Melgen. Taking the issue up with the director in charge of Medicare payments, Menendez claimed it was unfair to penalize the doctor "because the billing rules were ambiguous."

The Post, however, reported that Melgen was billing the government three to four times for injections from a single vial to treat macular degeneration.

Menendez again met with federal officials in 2012 to dispute the auditors' appraisal of Melgen's billing. The agency had demanded that Melgen repay the nearly $9 million in overbilling.

When asked by CNN Thursday about the new billing allegations, Melgen declined to immediately answer the question but said he would later return with a comment.

Separately, Melgen has made headlines recently for providing plane rides for Menendez in 2010 to the Dominican Republic–trips the senator didn't pay for until January of this year.

Menendez told CNN in an exclusive TV interview earlier this week that the pay discrepancy–worth nearly $60,000–was simply an oversight.

"I was in a big travel schedule in 2010 as the chair of the (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), plus my own campaign getting ready for a re-election cycle and in the process of all of that, it unfortunately fell through the cracks," he told CNN's Dana Bash, adding that when it came to his attention the payment had not taken place, he "personally paid" for it in order to meet his obligation.

Menendez, however, has also been in some hot water for raising questions before administration officials about a port security contract for a company in which Melgen has a stake. The company had a contract to screen cargo that went through Dominican ports, but Menendez argued last July during a Senate subcommittee hearing that Dominican authorities didn't want to "live by" the contract.

Asked if he used his influence to help Melgen, Menendez told Bash: "I have always advocated for issues and I have advocated for policies, and that's what I have done across the board."

Melgen's offices were raided by FBI agents and health care investigators last week as part of a fraud probe, fueling further speculation about his ties to Menendez. An aide to the senator, however, told the Post that Menendez was unaware Melgen was under formal investigation for possible fraud until the raid last week.

- CNN's Dana Bash, Adriana Hauser and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Filed under: Bob Menendez • New Jersey • Senate
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    Sounds like he's been doing more than just "getting his groove on".

    February 7, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. Borderless

    Democrats have become the party of corruption and scandal. Where is a real liberal supposed to go these days?

    February 7, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  3. Bill

    We take pride at our politicians even when they are bought by rich crooked donors. In all seriousness, why would a US senator want that position so bad that is willing to sell himself for a donation?

    February 7, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. JJ

    Another sleazy, corrupt liberal Democrat to join: Bill Clinton (perjury, disbarment and impeachment), Elliott Spitzer, Ex Governor of NY (call girls), Anthony Weiner, Ex NY Congressman (exposure), Tim Geithner, Ex Treas Sec. (tax cheat), Rod Blagoevich, Ex Governor of IL (corruption), Jesse Jackson Jr., Congressman IL (campaign fraud), Charlie Rangel, NY Congressman (tax fraud), Maxine Waters, Congresswomen (policial influence peddling), Ted Kennedy, Deceased Senator (manslaughter in death of Mary Jo Kopechne), William Jefferson, former LA Congressman (corruption with $90K in freezer)......

    February 7, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    GOPers will cry foul and lambaste Menendez and Melgen over the alleged Medicare/Medicaid overbilling, etc., and yet they happily elected the biggest Medicare fraudster ever to set foot in this country as the governor of the very state at issue here.

    February 7, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "Democrats have become the party of corruption and scandal. Where is a real liberal supposed to go these days?"

    Oh that's rich. Yuo think to convince "real liberals" to engage in a mass exodus from the Democratic Party? Bwahahaha. You guys are pathetic.

    February 7, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    As i recall, the airplane ride was reimbursed, so I don't see the problem at this point. There is nothing clearly showing that Menendez did anything else. If there is that proof, then show it to me.

    @JJ, if you think that only Democrats are corrupt, then you haven't followed the GOP. Governor Ryan from IL to start; Ted Stevens from Alaska just to start the list.

    February 7, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    JJ wrote:

    Another sleazy, corrupt liberal Democrat ....
    Yeah, well Republicans have had their fair share politicians with troubles. I should point out that politically motivated House resolutions do not mean squat. Still Republicans take the top slots by a wide margin. They are on record as having the only President and Vice-President forced to resign, Nixon and Agnew. Ever since that fiasco Republicans have been trying to lay anything they can grope for on a Democrat....just to level the playing field, you know. 😉

    February 7, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    uh oh. the disclosure may yet come to light, since the FBI is investigating.

    February 7, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |