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Sentencing postponed for doctor accused of bribing senator


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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A sentencing hearing in a Medicare fraud case against a prominent Florida eye doctor separately accused of bribing New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was postponed Thursday at the last minute.

Attorneys for Dr. Salomon Melgen, 63, said in court documents they and prosecutors agreed to postpone Friday's sentencing hearing until December. He was convicted in April on 67 counts that prosecutors say resulted in more than $100 million being stolen from the federal government.

Melgen's attorneys said in court documents the delay is necessary because the hearing could take longer than a day. They declined further comment. Federal prosecutors declined comment.

The sentencing hearing is now set for after next month's scheduled federal bribery trial for Menendez and Melgen in New Jersey.

Prosecutors said Melgen gave Menendez gifts in exchange for visas for Melgen's foreign mistresses. Menendez also interceded with Medicare officials investigating Melgen's practice and pressured the State Department to intervene in a business dispute Melgen had with the Dominican government, prosecutor said. Menendez and Melgen have denied wrongdoing in that case.

Sentencing guidelines in the Medicare case recommended that Melgen receive a term of between 30 years and life.

Prosecutors frequently use the prospect of a long prison sentence as leverage to convince defendants to testify against others to get a more lenient sentence. But there's been no indication in court documents or by lawyers that Melgen is cooperating with the government against Menendez.

Melgen became politically active in 1997, when he treated Florida Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who appointed him to a state board.

He was soon hosting Democratic fundraisers at his 6,500-square-foot (605-square-meter) North Palm Beach home and he eventually became friends with Menendez. Melgen paid for trips he and the senator took to France and to the doctor's home at a Dominican resort.

Menendez reimbursed Melgen $58,500 after the trips became public knowledge.

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Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in Miami contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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TERRY SPENCER

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