Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid personally asked the Obama administration to help a Florida eye doctor who was accused of paying Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, according to the Department of Justice.
The senator asked Reid in November 2011 to pressure the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to drop its ruling against Dr. Solomon Melgen, wherein the agency claimed the eye doctor over-billed Medicaid for $8.9 million, Bloomberg reports.
Reid called a former Obama aide to reportedly try and apply pressure on the administration to intervene in the case, but the aide refused to get involved in the matter after he realized the case involved a single doctor and a federal agency.
Menendez is set to appear before a judge in early September along with Melgen, who is charged with bribing the senator with large sums of money, extravagant trips and campaign fundraisers at his 6,500-square-foot home in North Palm Beach, Fla., in exchange for his assistance in navigating government disputes.
The defense lawyers for Menendez and Melgen argued Wednesday that prosecutors in the case are bringing up “new, irrelevant and inflammatory facts,” with the allegations that Menendez used Reid to pressure the Obama White House.
Melgen was convicted of 67 counts of Medicare fraud in April. Federal prosecutors were able to convince the jury that Melgen stole up to $105 million from Medicare between 2008 to 2013. He was allegedly splitting up expensive eye drugs into four separate doses and charging the government for each treatment.
Reid has his own relationship with Melgen. The former Senate majority leader flew on Melgen’s private plane in 2012 from Washington, D.C., to Boston for a Majority PAC event, a political action committee whose purpose is to help expand and keep a Democratic majority in the Senate. In addition to the flight, Melgen donated $600,000 to Majority PAC.
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