Dr. Salomon Melgen made and lost millions by multi-dosing elderly patients

Dr. Salomon Melgen’s practice of using a single vial of a drug to treat multiple elderly patients for a wet macular degeneration went from being a bonanza to a bust, according to those who testified Wednesday in the Palm Beach County ophthalmologist’s trial on 76 charges of health care fraud.

Dr. Salomon Melgen, 62, arrives at the federal courthouse in West Palm Beach this week.(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

When the U.S. Supreme Court two weeks ago refused to hear Melgen’s appeal in his long-running dispute with federal health regulators, it dashed his hopes of recouping millions he repaid Medicare when it claimed he wrongly used one vial of the pricey drug Lucentis to treat as many as four patients, a practice known as multi-dosing.

But federal prosecutors, who claim Melgen bilked Medicare out of as much as $105 million by multi-dosing, misdiagnosing and mistreating scores of elderly patients, said millions more are at stake.

The high court’s decision means Melgen won’t be able to get back the $8.9 million he repaid Medicare for multi-dosing patients at clinics in West Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie in 2007 and 2008. But, Medicare officials also want the wealthy, politically-connected retinal specialist to repay another roughly $32 million for multi-dosing patients from 2009 to 2013.

An attorney, whose Washington-based firm has been paid about $5 million to represent Melgen in his unsuccessful legal battle with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, told a federal jury that Melgen is appealing the agency’s claims that he owes it additional money. The appeals, attorney Alan Reider acknowledged, could stretch on for years.

Melgen’s attorneys – including one that works for the same Washington, D.C. law firm as Reider – argued that Melgen’s practice of multi-dosing didn’t cost the Medicare program a dime. Had Melgen bought separate vials of Lucentis for each of his patients, the agency would have reimbursed Melgen roughly $2,000 for each one.

But, prosecutors countered, the practice was lucrative for Melgen. Instead of buying separate vials of Lucentis for three or sometimes four patients, he bought one. But he was reimbursed as if he bought one for each patient.

That means if he used one vial to treat three patients, instead of getting back roughly $2,000 for a single vial, he got back about $6,000. If he used it to treat four patients, he got nearly $8,000.

The trial, which began last month, continues today. Melgen also faces corruption charges in New Jersey along with his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. His multi-dosing of Lucentis, and Menendez’s attempts to intervene in his dispute with federal regulators, figure into the prosecution’s case there as well.

 

Attorney for Anthony Simpson wants off case, says he was duped

When attorneys tell judges they want off a case, they routinely cite “irreconcilable differences,” which typically means they haven’t been paid.

 

But, when a Jupiter attorney decided he no longer wanted to represent former North Palm Beach jeweler Anthony Simpson, he felt compelled to apologize to the judge and lawyers representing a New Jersey woman who is trying to evict Simpson from his home. Court records show he deeded it to her in 2015 in exchange for $450,000.

“My credibility is all I have and I have been lied to repeatedly by (Simpson),” attorney David Kuschel wrote in a motion filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court earlier this month. “I did not become an attorney to abuse the judicial system or to lie to other members of the Florida Bar and the Court.”

Like others who have dealt with the former owner of Shamrock Jewelers on Northlake Boulevard, Kuschel said he believed Simpson when he told him he had “a financial backer.” Simpson promised repeatedly that the anonymous benefactor would give him $600,000 to settle the eviction lawsuit filed against him by Jodi Monell, as trustee of two family-owned trusts in Colts Neck, N.J., Kuschel wrote.

Kuschel said he met with people who were interested in buying Simpson’s home but that they didn’t understand the urgency of doing so. “Apparently, (Simpson) also misrepresented facts to the financial backers,” he wrote.

“The undersigned counsel does not know what else he can do, hence withdrawing from this action is my best course of action,” he wrote in the request.

In 2015, Simpson repeatedly told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Erik Kimball he had “an angel” who would repay those who invested roughly $12 million in Rollaguard, a company he formed to produce a high-tech brief case. When the anonymous benefactor never appeared, Kimball put a bankruptcy trustee in charge of Rollaguard and Shamrock, who closed them both.

Trustee Robert Furr has filed dozens of lawsuits trying to recover millions from those who made money on both Shamrock and Rollaguard at the expense of others. Simpson also faces charges in Louisiana for writing bad checks to a diamond broker there.

Circuit Judge Edward Artau has scheduled a hearing on April 17 on Monell’s request to order Simpson out of his Oyster Road home.

Trump ordered to pay $5.77 million to members of Jupiter club

President Donald Trump’s development company on Wednesday was ordered to pay former members of its Jupiter golf club $5.77  million for improperly changing the rules when he purchased it in 2012.

Six things to know about WPB federal judge who ruled against Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

In a one-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra ruled in favor of members who filed suit against Trump National Golf Club Jupiter on Donald Ross Road. He awarded them $4.8 million plus $925,000 in interest.

Federal judge to Trump: No disrespect intended

In a statement, the Trump Organization vowed to appeal.

At a trial in August, members argued that under Trump’s ownership they had been soaked for millions.  Trump purchased the ailing club from The Ritz Carlton for $5 million in 2012. The bargain price came with the understanding that he was responsible for the $41 million that Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa owed members in refundable deposits.

Trump in Palm Beach: The latest on protests planned Saturday

Instead, members claimed, he refused to refund their deposits and continued to charge them membership fees while refusing to let them use the club.

Daily News: much did Donald Trump pay in taxes for Mar-a-Lago in 2016?

Contrary to Ritz-Carlton’s policies, Trump ownership rules bar members from the club once they announce their intentions to resign. Even though they can’t use the club, they are still billed $8,000 to $20,000 a year for dues and must pay an $1,800 annual fee for food and beverages. Because most have to wait until five new members join before their deposit will be refunded, those bills will continue to mount for years.

Patriots owner Bob Kraft, President Trump have Palm Beach connections

Trump, then hot on the campaign trail, testified by videotape. His son, Eric, who oversees the club along with 17 others owned by The Trump Organization, claimed the members were just disgruntled and eventually would get their money back when new members joined.

From the archive: Bino commentary: Step aside, Judge Marra. It’s your turn to be an unsuitable Trump judge

In the statement, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization wrote: “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s decision.  The plaintiffs were all members under Ritz Carlton who resigned before Trump purchased the Club.  At the time Trump purchased the Club, it was suffering financially, making it unlikely that these members would ever get back their deposits.  At trial, we presented overwhelming evidence that the plaintiffs’ memberships were never recalled and that the plaintiffs had waived this argument during the course of the litigation.”

 

Read more Donald Trump coverage from The Post 

Check back for updates.

*Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect an amended judgment Marra issued to correct a mathematical error.

 

Prosecutors, clerks to host workshop on sealing, expunging records

tmpNSWfqS-mdly-photoRemember that old criminal charge you’ve always wanted to get removed from your record?

The Palm Beach County court system has a workshop for that.

Officials from the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office, Palm Beach County Clerk of Court and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday will host a second sealing and expunging workshop for people seeking to have an arrest removed from their record.

Sheriff’s officials in a flyer list eligible participants as people who were ever charged with a crime in a Palm Beach County case that did not result in conviction, adding that people who fit that criteria may be able to a get a single arrest record sealed or expunged.

“Our community becomes safer when those who are eligible under the law for sealing and expungement can get their lives back on track and become successful members of our society,” Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said in a press release this week.

The workshop will be held Thursday on the first floor of the main courthouse at 205 North Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, from 3:00 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Workshop attendees should bring the following:

  1. A Florida driver’s license, Florida issued photo I.D. or U.S. Passport.
  2. A completed “State Attorney’s Preliminary Application for Sealing/Expungement Eligibility,” which can be found at sa15.org.
  3. Any copies of old paperwork available on the arrest. If the case occurred before 2008, call ahead so the clerk has a few days to locate the old file.

For more questions, contact Angel at 561-355-7373 or Lidis at 561-355-7313

UPDATE: Judge denies Corey Jones shooter’s bid to attend child’s event

 

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017 after a hearing where he hoped to have conditions of his house arrest loosened to attend an event at his daughter's school. The judge denied the request. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Nouman Raja leaves court with his wife Thursday, January 26, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE 8:41 a.m.: Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer denied Nouman Raja’s request to relax his house arrest this Sunday as he awaits trial in the death of a stranded motorist.

Raja, the former Palm Beach Gardens police officer accused of manslaughter and attempted murder in the Oct. 18, 2015 shooting death of Corey Jones, had asked a judge to release him from house arrest so he can attend a school event for his daughter.

See Post’s full coverage of the Corey Jones shooting

Raja’s wife, Karine Antonio Raja, said all the other parents sat her daughter’s preschool would be attending the event and that her five-year-old daughter had asked for both her mother and father to attend.

But Feuer, agreeing with Chief Assistant State Attorney Adrienne Ellis that the request should be denied, called the request “a slippery slope.”

“I simply believe that this just chips away at the importance and essence of house arrest,” Feuer said. “I understand that this is an important day in Mr. Raja’s child’s life, but I think the ramifications that were placed on Mr. Raja’s house arrest should remain at this time.”

Raja was arrested in June, nearly eight months after he approached the 31-year-old stranded motorist in plainclothes and shot him several times after a brief encounter on the off-ramp of Interstate 95 and PGA Boulevard.

By then, he had been fired from the department and also let go from a job as a police academy instructor at Palm Beach State College.

Thursday’s hearing brought Raja face to face for the first time with Jones’ father, stepmother and brother, who did not attend his first appearance hearing back in June.

It also marked the first time Raja’s wife has spoken publicly since his arrest.

Feuer at the end of the hearing canceled a status check in the case set for next month and instead asked the lawyers to come back with an update on March 28.

The judge has said she wants to bring the case to trial as early as this summer, but prosecutors alone have listed dozens of potential witnesses that Raja’s defense team will be entitled to interview before trial.

Raja told investigators initially that he identified himself as an officer and only shot at Jones when he charged at him with a gun.

Jones was on the line with a roadside assistance operator at the time, and the recording prosecutors released recently in the case captured no such introduction.

In Raja’s June arrest report, prosecutors also noted Raja’s 911 call, where he repeatedly shouted to someone – presumably Jones – to drop the gun.

But prosecutors claim that according to Jones’ injuries and the time Raja fired his last shots, Jones was likely dead and certainly already on the ground by the time Raja dialed 911.

Raja has been free on house arrest since his arrest and is only permitted to leave the house for work, medical visits, dropping his children off at school and once monthly haircuts.

Chief Assistant State Attorneys Brian Fernandes and Adrienne Ellis in the past have balked at Raja’s requests to relax his house arrest, saying that Jones never had a chance of his own to have children and be with family because of him untimely death.

Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, has said that his client is presumed innocent and says he should be free from “a rush to judgement” in the case.

Brother of Corey Jones shooter shares virtues, pain of Nouman Raja

When the time came for Adnan Raja to tell his mother that his younger brother, Nouman, had shot a man in the line of duty, he said he didn’t have the heart to tell her the man Nouman shot was dead.

Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja appears in court Thursday morning, June 2, 2016, charged in the shooting death of Corey Jones. Nouman Raja is being charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence and one count of attempted first degree murder with a firearm. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja appears in court Thursday morning, June 2, 2016, charged in the shooting death of Corey Jones. Nouman Raja is being charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence and one count of attempted first degree murder with a firearm. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

The men’s mother, Adnan Raja told FBI agents, prayed for 31-year-old drummer Corey Jones for two days solid until Adnan finally told her Jones had died in the Oct. 18, 2015, fatal roadside encounter with her son.

RELATED: Prosecutors said officer lied in Corey Jones’ shooting

Among the more than 3,000 pages of documents and 50 audio and video recordings in Nouman Raja’s criminal case released Tuesday, the interview more than a year ago with Adnan Raja provides the first insight into the Raja family’s sadness over the loss of life, love for each other and distrust of others in the aftermath of the shooting.

“I think I’m a good guy, he’s 10 times better than I am,” Adnan Raja, a Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy, said of his only brother. “He’ll give you the shirt off his back, and for the media to portray him the way that they did, I don’t think that was right.”

In his interview with FBI agents, Adnan Raja, formerly a detective with the Riviera Beach Police Department, candidly said his brother’s experience had him thinking about leaving the law enforcement profession.

The undated interview came at least several months before Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg charged Nouman Raja with manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted murder.

Adnan Raja himself would become the subject of news two months after his brother’s shooting of Corey Jones, when he became one of five deputies to involved in the shooting of 48-year-old Olie James Goad in a business plaza on Congress Avenue. Goad survived.

But Adnan Raja’s conversation with police about his brother revealed, perhaps for the first time publicly that Adnan Raja himself was nearly involved in a shooting less than hours after his brother’s 3 a.m. confrontation with Jones, 31.

Adnan Raja said he had a pair of robbery suspects pinned down at 4 a.m., just about the time he received a text from one of his brother’s colleagues at the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department. Nouman had been involved in a shooting, the text read. He was OK.

Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015.
Corey Jones, 31, was shot and killed by a Palm Beach Gardens police officer, Oct. 18, 2015.

“I was stressed because now, it’s kinda odd because I just almost had someone at gunpoint, and now my brother … til I talk to him I don’t know he’s OK,” Adnan Raja said. “Plus, my mother’s old, I don’t want anything to stress her out.”

The older brother says he remembers reaching out to Nouman Raja, either by phone or text, shortly after he found out. They spoke briefly, just long enough for Adnan Raja to hear his brother was fine.

Their conversations in the days afterward contained little more than basic information, Adnan Raja said. They didn’t trust anyone, he said, and were convinced that someone inside the investigation was talking to the media.

When Adnan Raja wanted to come and visit his brother a couple of days later, Nouman Raja told him not to come because there were too many reporters outside his house. Adnan Raja told his little brother not to go grocery shopping — he would do it for him.

Many things about the aftermath of the shooting frustrated Adnan Raja –aside from public perception.

One was his belief that someone — another officer, he was convinced — had leaked a “word for word” rendition of Nouman’s Raja’s crime scene walk-through with investigators in the aftermath of the shooting.

Prosecutors publicly released an audio recording and transcript of that interview Tuesday. In it, several of Nouman Raja’s statements directly contradict Raja’s own call to 911 after the shooting as well as an audio recording from Jones’ call to a roadside assistance line, which captured his encounter with Raja.

For Adnan Raja, whose assessment of police work in the south was “no one has each other’s back,” the belief that a fellow officer was immediately leaking information about his brother’s case “I thought that  below the belt,” he said.

Palm Beach Gardens fired Nouman Raja in November 2015, less than a month after the shooting of Jones, a drummer on his way home from a gig when his SUV broke down on the Interstate 95 southbound exit at PGA Boulevard. By then he had spent eight years as an officer in Atlantis but was only seven months into his job with Gardens.

“I know he was probationary, but hey, c’mon, man, at least, you know, whatever,” Adnan Raja said, adding that he thought the fair thing to do would have been to let the investigation run its course. “We’re a little bit upset, but, we’re not going to talk about it.”

Adnan Raja in the conversation brought up Darren Wilson, the now former Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, saying he felt Wilson didn’t get “fair, due process.”

In his brother’s case, Adnan Raja said, he had been portrayed as a knife-wielding bully when the truth was, he said, Nouman Raja was against violence. There was an immediate push to make his brother’s case racial, he said, “but they can’t do that.”

Jones is black and Raja is of Pakistani descent.

The brothers, Adnan Raja said, almost immediately decided to close ranks. Nouman Raja wasn’t talking to any relatives except for his brother and the occasional call to their mother, Adnan Raja said. Neither one of them was talking about the case, period, he said, because his brother “already has enough stress as it is.”

Their focus, Adnan Raja said, was to get his brother a job in another profession. Nouman Raja works in a tactical supply store that sells vests and other equipment primarily to law enforcement officers.

Adnan Raja still works for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

He said he took three days off after the shooting. But at some point shortly afterward, while working a detail at a Wal-Mart shopping center, Adnan Raja said someone looked at his name tag, recognized his last name and started moving toward him.

“And I was just like listen, I suggest you keep on walking,” Adnan Raja recalled.

He said both he and his brother got a number of spoof calls after the shooting, so he stopped answering his phone unless it was a number he recognized. Several calls, including one from a number Adnan Raja believed to be his brother’s former police chief in Atlantis, went unanswered.

In the nearly 15-minute interview with the agents, Adnan Raja painted a grim picture of law enforcement work. Face to face in some encounters, Adnan Raja said, an officer only has two choices.

“You shoot somebody if they point a gun at you, or do you take the bullet and hope you have a lot of life insurance?” he said.

Gun charge dropped for Riviera teen convicted of murder

Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped a felony gun charge against a Riviera Beach teen recently sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing another teen in a confrontation that stemmed from a Facebook feud.

Samuel Turner, who will turn 19 on Thursday, will likely be headed to prison this week after Assistant State Attorney Terri Skiles announced that the state would be dropping a gun charge against him in the case surrounding the October 2014 shooting death of Ivan Redding.

A jury at the end of Turner’s December 2015 first-degree murder trial convicted him of a lesser second-degree murder charge.

Circuit Judge Charles Burton in October sentenced Turner to 30 years in prison, 10 years longer than the 20-year punishment that Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Marshall requested.

Assistant Public Defender Elizabeth Ramsey, who represented Turner through the trial, said more than a year ago that she planned to appeal the conviction. The appeal will likely center on video that captured part of the shooting in a car on the 2900 black of Old Dixie Highway, a video Ramsey says raised doubts about whether Turner was the shooter.

“The evidence was weird,” she said. “It was a case where every witness told a story – a very different story.”

Prosecutors said the confrontation between the teens marked the climax of a Facebook war of words between two of Redding’s sisters and Turner’s friend, Fiando Toussaint.

Turner had driven with his sisters to the convenience store on Old Dixie Highway when the sisters saw Toussaint and Turner, resulting in verbal sparring that led to a fist fight between Redding and Turner.

In the aftermath, Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden told jurors during Turner’s trial, Turner told someone to go get his gun. Moments later, Redding had an ultimately fatal gunshot wound in his chest.

“Everyone knows Samuel Turner lost that fight, that’s why he was so angry,” Godden said.

Trump officially drops lawsuit against PBC over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago

Donald Trump has filed paperwork, confirming his plans to drop his $100 million lawsuit against Palm Beach County over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

“It’s officially over!” County Attorney Denise Nieman wrote county commissioners on Wednesday.

While the president-elect’s attorneys had called her on Monday, saying they no longer planned to pursue the nearly 2-year-old lawsuit, they didn’t file necessary court papers until Wednesday.

It was the third lawsuit Trump filed against the county, claiming jets from Palm Beach International Airport were causing irreparable damage to the historic club, built in the 1920s by cereal heiress Margaret Merriweather Post and her then husband E.F. Hutton. The first lawsuit, filed in 1995, was settled and a second one was dismissed by a Palm Beach County circuit judge.

Airports Director Bruce Pelly said the county has spent more than $800,000 fighting Trump in court.

Trump officially drops lawsuit against PBC over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago

Donald Trump has filed paperwork, confirming his plans to drop his $100 million lawsuit against Palm Beach County over jets flying near Mar-A-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

“It’s officially over!” County Attorney Denise Nieman wrote county commissioners on Wednesday.

While the president-elect’s attorneys had called her on Monday, saying they no longer planned to pursue the nearly 2-year-old lawsuit, they didn’t file necessary court papers until Wednesday.

In a two-sentence notice, Trump’s attorneys John Marion and Bruce Rogow, a noted constitutional law expert, wrote that they were voluntarily dismissing the suit “with prejudice.” Neither the county nor Trump, they wrote, would seek court costs or attorneys fees in connection with the abandoned litigation.

It was the third lawsuit Trump filed against the county, claiming jets from Palm Beach International Airport were causing irreparable damage to the historic club, built in the 1920s by cereal heiress Margaret Merriweather Post and her then husband E.F. Hutton. The first lawsuit, filed in 1995, was settled and a second one was dismissed by a Palm Beach County circuit judge.

Airports Director Bruce Pelly said the county has spent more than $800,000 fighting Trump in court.

Melgen almost gets to head home to await trial on dozens of health-care fraud charges

UPDATE: Federal prosecutors on Tuesday asked that the U.S. magistrate’s decision to allow Melgen to return home be put on hold until the matter is reviewed by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra. Magistrate James Hopkins granted the request which means Melgen will have to call off the moving vans.

After spending more than a year living in his daughter’s Palm Beach Gardens condo, Dr. Salomon Melgen is headed back to his sprawling house on the Intracoastal Waterway to await trial on charges that he defrauded Medicare out of as much as $105 million.

picture-dr-salomon-e-melgen-picture
Salomon Melgen

In an order signed this week, U.S. Magistrate James Hopkins said he is no longer concerned that living along the waterway increases the chances the ophthalmologist will flee to his native Dominican Republic. Further, Hopkins ruled that Melgen, who also faces corruption charges in New Jersey with his longtime friend U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, can leave his house near Juno Beach from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. without an escort. But, he said, he must continue to wear an ankle monitor.

In his order, Hopkins noted that Melgen would have gone to trial last month had federal prosecutors shared their witness list with the Melgen’s attorneys as they were required to do under court rules. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in August reluctantly delayed the trial until next year saying the failure to share the information could have denied Melgen a fair trial.

Melgen and Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, were indicted in April 2015 on corruption charges. Prosecutors claim Melgen showered Menendez with campaign contributions, hotel stays, free trips and other gifts. In exchange, they claim, Menendez lobbied federal agencies to help Melgen in an ongoing dispute over his Medicare billing and other matters, including bringing girlfriends into the country.

Weeks after he was charged in New Jersey, Melgen was charged here with more than 70 health-care related fraud charges in connection with clinics he operated in West Palm Beach, Wellington, Delray Beach and Port St. Lucie. Prosecutors claim he falsely diagnosed and treated scores of elderly patients for macular degeneration. They claim he double-billed Medicare by using one vial of Lucentis, a drug used to treat the malady that causes blindness, to treat multiple patients.

Melgen denies the charges. Before his release from the Palm Beach County jail in July 2015, he was forced to pledge all of his family’s assets – then estimated at $18 million – to secure his release. Since he was ordered to leave his home as part of the original bond deal, Melgen has sold his boat and jet, his attorneys said.