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Dec 7, 4:36 PM EST

The Latest: Prosecutors insist eye doc stole $136 million


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- The Latest on the sentencing hearing for a prominent Florida eye doctor accused of bribing U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey (all times local):

4 p.m.

Prosecutors say evidence proves a politically connected Florida eye doctor convicted of Medicare fraud stole more than $100 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Chase told U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra on Thursday that Dr. Salomon Melgen's practice was "permeated" with fraud and that he should accept the government's estimate that Melgen stole $136 million.

Chase said that even if the 63-year-old Melgen stole $65 million - about half as much - he would be eligible for a life sentence. Prosecutors are seeking 30 years.

Melgen's attorneys argued earlier Thursday that the government has only proven Melgen stole about $64,000. They want a short sentence.

Melgen is charged separately with bribing New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez.

---

11:55 a.m.

Attorneys for a politically connected Florida eye doctor convicted of a $100 million Medicare fraud are arguing that the government's actual loss was significantly less.

Attorney Josh Sheptow told U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra on Thursday that Dr. Salomon Melgen was ahead of his time, injecting patients with then-experimental drugs that are now approved.

Medicare does not pay for experimental treatments, so Sheptow suggested Melgen may have falsified billing statements to get around those restrictions. Sheptow said that would be fraud, but the treatments were legitimate, making the government's loss nil on many patients.

The amount of loss is important because it bears heavily on Marra's sentencing decision. Melgen could get a life sentence for a $100 million loss, but a minor loss could result in a short sentence. Melgen was found guilty of 67 counts, including health care fraud, submitting false claims and falsifying records in patients' files.

Melgen is charged separately with bribing New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez.

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