Former President Donald Trump included a number of doctors among the 143 people he pardoned before leaving the White House Wednesday.
The most recognizable name was that of Salomon Melgen, a Florida-based eye doctor who stood trial with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in an unrelated case that was dismissed in January 2018. The senator was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for political favors.
Melgen was separately sentenced to 17 years on charges of healthcare fraud and false statements in 2018. The court found Melgen had defrauded the government, specifically Medicare, of $42 million. Trump’s commutation was supported by Menendez along with other friends, family and former employees.
Trump also pardoned several former executives of WellCare, which is now part of Centene (CNC), for Medicaid fraud that entailed keeping money for the company that should have been returned to the state, including Todd Farha, the former CEO, Thaddeus Bereday, former general counsel, William Kale and Peter Clay, former vice presidents, and Paul Behrens, former chief financial officer.
The commutation was supported by various groups and law professors. The five were “criminally prosecuted for a state regulatory matter involving the reporting of expenditures to a state health agency. The expenditures reported were based on actual monies spent, and the reporting methodology was reviewed and endorsed by those with expertise in the state regulatory scheme. Notably, there was no evidence that any of the individuals were motivated by greed. The sentencing judge called the likelihood that there was any personal financial motivation ‘infinitesimal,’” according to the White House statement.
Other doctors on Trump’s list include Dr. Faustino Bernadett, Dr. Scott Harkonen, Dr. Robert S. Corkern, Dr. Frederick Nahas and John Duncan Fordham.
Bernadett, former owner of a California hospital, was sentenced to 15 months last January for a kickback scheme years earlier.
The White House said Bernadett, now retired, failed to report the scheme, three years after taking over the hospital, and that “he was not part of the underlying scheme itself.”
Harkonen, ex-CEO of biotech InterMune — which was acquired by Roche (RHHBY)— was sentenced in 2011 to house arrest and paid a hefty fine for a press release that falsely claimed a new drug was FDA-approved. Harkonen “looks forward to returning to medicine,” according to the White House.
Corkern, an emergency medicine physician in Mississippi, was sentenced in 2012 to house arrest for his role in a kickback scheme that involved bribing a county official in 2005. Corkern has been unable to practice and had his Medicare and Medicaid privileges revoked.
The commutation will allow him to treat patients “in his community, which is in dire need of more doctors as it has struggled to keep up with the demand for emergency services,” the White House said.
Nahas, a surgeon whose privileges were limited at a New Jersey hospital after a long court battle and a federal investigation in the1990s into his billing practices, was eventually sentenced to one month in prison in 2003. He was also found guilty of obstruction of justice, and has spent years trying to regain full privileges and clear his name.
Fordham was convicted of health care fraud in 2011 in Georgia, for scheming with two co-conspirators to defraud a community health center.
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