Agreement neared to release Fla. doctor tied to Menendez
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida doctor charged with corruption alongside New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez appeared closer to being released from jail Monday as an agreement about his bond solidified.
A hearing in federal court in West Palm Beach ended with no formal decision on Dr. Salomon Melgen's release, but U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins said he hoped to issue an order Wednesday in the Medicare fraud case.
Hopkins ruled last month that Melgen should be held until he stands trial in the Medicare case, which is separate from corruption charges he faces with Menendez in New Jersey. But U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra overruled him earlier this month, saying that although he agreed Melgen is a flight risk and the evidence against him is considerable, he still should be allowed to be released.
Though not finalized and subject to Hopkins' ruling, the potential agreement that has taken shape over multiple hearings could include a corporate surety bond of $3 million and an additional $15 million personal surety bond, all part of prosecutors' efforts to tie up the eye surgeon's vast wealth in holdings in the U.S. and his native Dominican Republic to keep him from fleeing while awaiting trial.
"I don't want him to have access to liquid assets that he can run with," Hopkins said.
As they have repeatedly, prosecutors and defense attorneys tangled on the details of Melgen's wealth, and his wife, two children and son-in-law were called to testify about their own finances.
Melgen, who has been behind bars since his April 14 arrest, did not appear in court Monday.
The indictment unsealed in Florida in April came just two weeks after another one in New Jersey in which prosecutors say Menendez intervened on his friend's behalf to gain visas for Melgen's foreign girlfriends, press Dominican officials to honor a lucrative port contract for one of the doctor's businesses, and influence Medicare officials on billing disputes. In exchange, authorities say, Melgen showered the senator with flights, vacations and contributions. Both Melgen and Menendez have pleaded not guilty in that case.
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