The judge in Palm Beach County eye doctor Salomon Melgen’s Medicare fraud trial on Monday threw out the testimony of a witness who wrongfully claimed the doctor had billed her for a surgery he never performed.
Attorneys for Melgen had asked U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to declare a mistrial over the testimony that came up Thursday during the first day of testimony in a trial that is expected to last through next month.
Also Monday, federal jurors heard testimony from one of the FBI agents who pored over thousands of patient records and photographs from Melgen’s practice going back to the 1990s, and began hearing from an expert on macular degeneration — an eye illness that federal prosecutors say Melgen falsely diagnosed and treated in scores of patients at his offices in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie to collect Medicare payouts of more than $108 million.
Before testimony began for the day, however, defense attorney Matthew Menchel told Marra that he and other defense attorneys for the 62-year-old doctor were completely blindsided by accusations from witnesses Thursday that Melgen had never performed an operation on patient Delores Griffiths for which he billed Medicare.
Menchel said that records showed that Melgen had done the procedure. But even if the allegations were true, Menchel said, federal prosecutors have never claimed in indictments against Melgen that he billed Medicare for procedures he never performed. Menchel said prosecutors were reckless and irresponsible for bringing up the allegations during the trial without prior notice.
“This was completely new, completely different, and completely out of left field,” Menchel said. “That’s like charging someone with robbery and then coming to trial and accusing them of rape.”
Menchel had asked Marra to either declare a mistrial in the case or to throw out the witness testimony. The judge chose the latter, telling jurors that records show the procedure had been done and instructing them to disregard the witness testimony.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Prosecutors behaving badly
This time it's in the Salomon Melgen trial in WPB, where the prosecutors elicited false testimony about uncharged conduct. Although Judge Marra struck the testimony and instructed the jury, the defense's motion for mistrial was denied. From the PBP: