North Palm Beach ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen will be allowed to post bond and leave jail pending his trial on charges that he bilked Medicare out of $105 million, a federal judge decided Friday.I'm not sure I understand sending it back for a determination by the magistrate judge to set the actual bond amount, but I am sure that the new defense team is thrilled that their client is getting out.
But the wealthy 61-year-old physician won’t be released before a hearing Monday for U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins to set the size of the bond. U.S. prosecutors are asking that he be required to pay $20 million to secure his release from the federal detention center in Miami.
While leaving that task up to Hopkins, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra said Friday he was putting conditions in place to help reduce prosecutors’ fears that Melgen would flee to his native Dominican Republic or seek refuge elsewhere on the globe.
Melgen, who has been held in custody without bond since his April arrest on charges that he falsely diagnosed and treated hundreds of patients for macular degeneration to illegally inflate his Medicare billings, will be held on house arrest with electronic monitoring once he has posted bond, Marra ruled. But, he said, Melgen won’t be staying at his $2.3 million waterfront home in Captain’s Key near Juno Beach.
“Defendant shall not reside at a location adjacent to or with access to a waterway,” he said in the four-page ruling. Melgen will also will be stripped of any ability to use his boat or private jet.
Marra also ordered the doctor to provide a written declaration from Dominican government leaders, pledging that they won’t block his extradition should he seek safe harbor in his homeland.
...“The court concludes that nature and notoriety of the charges (Melgen) is facing in New Jersey, and the fact that he is a co-defendant with a United States Senator, makes it unlikely that any attempt to flee would be successful,” he wrote. “Great diplomatic and political pressure would be brought to bear on any country that might consider shielding (Melgen) from extradition.”
In addition, he said, Melgen’s wife, son and daughter will be required to pledge their assets to guarantee his return. The possibility that he would leave his family “financially devastated” should curb any desire to escape prosecution, Marra wrote.
Melgen, he said, has had months, if not years, to flee. For at least two years, he has been under investigation for health-care fraud and for his relationship with Menendez. Weeks before he was alerted by prosecutors in New Jersey that his indictment there was imminent, he traveled to the Dominican Republic for a wedding and returned, Menchel said.
“Certainly,” Marra wrote, “if (Melgen) intended to flee, he had his chances.”
Meantime, check out this article in the Washington Post about sentencing. What has happened to our system?
And in breaking news, the Supreme Court this morning granted cert in Sila Luis v. United States, Howard Srebnick's follow up case to Kaley. This time he paired up with brother Scott Srebnick. Here is the 11th Circuit unpublished opinion, which affirmed Judge Huck. The question will address whether the pretrial restraint of forfeitable substitute assets needed to retain counsel of choice violates the Fifth or Sixth Amendment.
Early coverage from the AP:
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether the government can put a hold on untainted money and property that a criminal defendant needs to hire a lawyer.The justices said that they will review the case of Sila Luis of Miami-Dade County, Florida, who has been indicted on fraud charges involving $45 million in allegedly improper Medicare payments. On the same day Luis was indicted in 2012, federal prosecutors froze her assets.Luis said the freeze includes money with no ties to the charges against her and that she has a constitutional right to use the funds to hire a lawyer to mount a defense. Lower courts ruled against her....The new case goes to whether untainted money can be frozen when the defendant needs it to hire a lawyer. The Justice Department said the assets can be frozen even if they are untainted. In this case, the government said it sought to freeze substitute assets that would be forfeited after a conviction because Luis already has spent the ill-gotten gains on luxury items and travel.