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Bond nearly final for doctor tied to NJ Sen. Menendez

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Florida doctor charged with corruption alongside New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez could be released from jail as soon as Thursday after 11 weeks behind bars.

Prosecutors reached a tentative $18 million bond agreement with defense attorneys for Dr. Salomon Melgen on Wednesday. They were to finalize the terms in a hearing Thursday.

In a daylong series of hearings, prosecutors questioned the eye surgeon and his wife Flor on their finances, a continuation of weeks of court appearances in which every aspect of the couple’s accounts, investments and real estate has been explored.

The testimony covered everything from the status of cacao trees planted on land owned by the Melgens in the Dominican Republic to tens of millions of dollars in stock market losses to American Express points earned on spending. Pages filled with images of checks written and cashed by the couple, their children and son-in-law were also reviewed.

Defense attorney Matthew Menchel criticized the questioning, saying prosecutors were “throwing checks at them” all in an effort “to try and conjure up that there must be some money out there.” But U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hopkins allowed it to continue, saying “we’re talking about a lot of money and a lot of cash that is involved here.”

Hopkins has repeatedly expressed fear Melgen could flee to his native Dominican Republic. He had initially ordered the doctor held until trial but was later overruled by a district judge who agreed that Melgen is a flight risk but still should be released. Under the not-yet-final agreement, Melgen is to be granted home detention with electronic monitoring.

The Medicare charges filed against Melgen in Florida are separate from another federal case he faces with Menendez in New Jersey. In the Florida case, he is accused of an elaborate scheme in which he allegedly falsely diagnosed patients with serious eye conditions in order to bill Medicare for costly treatments. In the New Jersey case, he is accused of trading favors with Menendez to intervene in disputes with Medicare and other matters.

Both men have pleaded not guilty. Menendez is not charged in the Florida case.

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