Feds throw book at 2 docs in separate fraud cases

An ophthalmologist and a dermatologist with practices in St. Lucie County will both serve years in prison and lose their medical practices after they were caught defrauding Medicare and other health insurance providers.

Dr. Salomon Melgen, an ophthalmologist with Vitreo-Retinal Consultants on SE Tiffany Avenue in Port St. Lucie, will serve 17 years in federal prison after being convicted of swindling Medicare out of $42 million and other insurers out of nearly $30 million more.

A U.S. District judge handed down the sentence following an eight-week jury trial that found  Melgen guilty of 67 counts of healthcare fraud and related charges. The trial ended in April 2017.

In an unrelated case, Dr. Gary L. Marder, D.O., pled guilty to obstruction charges and healthcare fraud. He was the owner and operator of Allergy Dermatology & Skin Cancer Centers, with locations in Port St. Lucie and Okeechobee. The Port St. Lucie office is located in the 9000 block of U.S. 1.

Marder will serve 36 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release. He must also permanently surrender his license to practice as an osteopathic physician, and is not allowed to own, operate, manage or consult in a medical practice in anyway during the term of his sentence.

Along with his 17-year prison sentence, Melgen has been ordered to make full restitution to Medicare, according to court records. A future court hearing will determine what he is responsible for regarding the losses to other insurance companies as well as to the individual patients.

“In perpetrating his multi-million fraud scheme on healthcare benefit programs like Medicare, Dr. Melgen showed complete disregard for what was best for his patients and abused their trust for his own personal financial gain,” stated U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg in a prepared statement.

The FBI and numerous other agencies investigated the cases of the two doctors.

According to the FBI and U.S. District Attorney’s Office, Melgen falsely diagnosed Medicare patients with macular degeneration and then performed and billed for excessive and medically unnecessary tests and procedures. Such procedures included injections of expensive drugs and laser treatments. His defrauding of Medicare alone spanned six years from January 2008 through December 2013.

As for dermatologist Marder, a whistleblower filed suit, alleging the doctor was knowingly submitting fraudulent claims to Medicare and other federal healthcare programs. In February 2017, Marder settled a civil suit with the government. That settlement required Marder to pay $18 million – of which he paid $11 million directly and transferred real property to the U.S. to fulfill the balance. According to the settlement agreement, his payment in the civil case satisfied restitution owed in the criminal case.

Marder, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office, submitted approximately $350,000 in false claims for services to various insurers.    

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