ST. PETERSBURG (CBSMiami/AP) — Rappers, a real estate investor convicted in a Ponzi scheme and a once-prominent eye doctor were Floridians on former President Donald Trump’s clemency list hours before he exited the presidency.
Trump commuted the sentence of Salomon Melgen, who was convicted in 2017 of defrauding Medicare out of $73 million by persuading numerous elderly patients to undergo tests and get treatment for diseases they did not actually have.READ MORE: 'We Want Him Dead, We Want Him Forgotten': Parkland Shooter Nikolas Cruz's Apology Falls Flat With Victims Families
Melgen was serving 17 years at a Miami prison, but was released early on Wednesday, Jan. 20 after he was included on a list of more than 140 people who were either pardoned or had their sentences commuted by Trump during his last hours in the White House.
A federal jury in New Jersey failed to reach a verdict later in 2017 on charges that Melgen provided bribery gifts to Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey. A mistrial was declared in that case.
A White House statement credited Menendez with supporting clemency for Melgen, who was a donor to Democratic politicians and a longtime friend of the Cuban-American New Jersey senator. The statement said clemency for Melgen also was supported by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, and members of Brigade 2506, the Cuban exile group involved in the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
“Numerous patients and friends testify to his generosity in treating all patients, especially those unable to pay or unable to afford healthcare insurance,” the White House statement said.
In a statement of his own, Menendez said he did very little on Melgen’s behalf and did not expect the clemency decision from Trump. There’s also scant evidence of any relationship between Trump and Melgen.READ MORE: Parkland Shooter Nikolas Cruz Pleads Guilty To All Counts In School Massacre
“I don’t pretend to know what motivates President Trump to act, but I am pretty sure it’s not me,” Menendez said. “Months ago, I was asked if I could offer insight about an old friend, and I did, along with what I understand were more than 100 individuals and organizations, including his former patients and local Hispanic groups familiar with Sal’s leadership and philanthropy in the South Florida community.”
Melgen, originally from the Dominican Republic and a Harvard-trained ophthalmologist, became a notable Democratic fundraiser, hosting numerous events at his home in North Palm Beach. He once treated former Florida Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who appointed him to a state board.
Others on Trump’s clemency list included:
Rapper Lil Wayne, whose real name is Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., was given a full pardon. The Grammy-winner was charged in Florida on Nov. 17 with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a federal offense that carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Rapper Kodak Black, whose real name is Bill K. Kapri, was granted a commutation. The “Tunnel Vision” rapper is serving a three-year prison sentence for falsifying documents used to purchase weapons at a Miami gun store.
Fred Davis Clark Jr. had his 40-year prison sentence commuted. He was convicted in 2016 of falsely promising his company could turn dilapidated properties in Florida, Las Vegas and the Caribbean into luxury resorts that would bring investors fat returns. In reality, the operation was a Ponzi scheme that used money from new investors to pay existing ones while Clark took millions off the top.MORE NEWS: Jason Banegas, Accused Of Killing Hollywood Officer Yandy Chirino, Has Extensive Arrest Record
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