Despite claiming his relationship to a Floridian ophthalmologist is merely a friendship and nothing more, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez has been charged for corruption and eight counts of bribery due to possibly using his standing as Senator in dealings with Doctor Salomon Melgen.
At a press conference on Wednesday, before being charged, Latino Senator Menendez stated that those charging him, “don’t know the difference between friendship and corruption and have chosen to twist my duties as a senator and my friendship into something that is improper.”
However, a 68-page indictment refutes Menendez’s claims otherwise. In the document, it shows that despite a decades-old friendship the Senator may have used his duties to aid Melgen’s three girlfriends’ obtain traveling visas, go on trips estimated to be nearly $1 million dollars, and obtain political contributions.
According to the Justice Department’s indictment Menendez and Melgen’s relationship involved the following:
• Melgen had three girlfriends, a Brazilian national who worked as an actress, model, and lawyer; a Dominican national who worked as a model; and an Ukrianian national who worked as an actress and model.
• For Melgen’s Brazilian girlfriend, in 2008 Menendez allegedly aided her in getting into the U.S. in order to attend grad school at the University of Miami—which the former paid for through a non-profit he had set-up. There’s an email from one of Menendez’s top advisor to the Visa Services offering support for her visa application the day before her scheduled interview for one. In the email Menendez advocated for her and that very day it was approved.
• For Melgen’s Dominican girlfriend, in 2008 Melgen’s girlfriend and her sister wanted to visit the states around Christmas to visit the doctor in Palm Beach, Florida. Melgen had wrote to the U.S. embassy in the Dominican Republic asking for their visas to be approved and then contacted Menendez himself who allegedly had a letter drafted up by a staffer stating that the young women were visiting his friend who is a well-known eye doctor. The pair was denied due to failing to meet the qualifications for traveling visas, however Menendez’s office continued to press and eventually their visas were approved.
• For Melgen’s Ukrainian girlfriend, Melgen’s third girlfriend was approved a visa which enabled her to travel from Spain to Miami, Florida in order to see the Doctor. Her approval is allagedly at Menendez’s doing who issued a letter, one with his signature, advocating on her behalf to visa officials.
• On the matter of travel expenses, the indictment reported on several trips that Menendez had taken in-which Melgen paid for. These trips were typically on Melgen’s private jet, however there is one trip that Melgen had chartered a private jet where Menendez was the only passenger.
• The trips Menendez allegedly took were from New Jersey to Washington and to the Dominican Republic. During one trip to Punta Cana, Melgen paid for a two-bedroom suite for Menendez and a guest.
• The indictment also revealed an email conversation between Melgen & Menendez regarding a trip to Paris, France in-which Melgen used nearly $650,000 American Express rewards point to cover the three night stay within a luxury hotel. Menendez was visiting to meet with his girlfriend. In the email, Menendez stating he felt like a king and advised Melgen that he should contact the credit card company to book it and to use his name for the trip.
• In 2013, when an investigation into Menendez hit the public the Senator paid Melgen $58,000 on travels he took in 2010 and called it his failure to disclose those flights as an oversight.
• On the matter of Menendez asking Melgen to fund his and other politicians campaign, the indictment stated that Melgen had responded to Menendez’s staffer’s request for contributions, “Don’t Worry. We will take care of it.”
• In April 2012, the indictment has an alleged email between Melgen’s aide and Menendez’s staffer requesting contributions to aid Menendez and order New Jersey Democrats in their re-election campaigns.
• According to the indictment, in 2012 Melgen—through both his family and his business—had given Menendez and his supporters more than $750,000 in their re-election efforts.
• When it came to using his position to aid Melgen, the indictment revealed that Menendez allegedly helped Melgen in a Medicare reimbursement dispute. In an email to his staffer, Menendez reached out to the top officials at both the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services in-regards to a multi-year battle that was ongoing between Melgen and federal health officials over an estimated $8.98 million the doctor was alleged to have over-billed Medicare for a drug he used in his ophthalmology practice.
• According to the indictment, Melgen and his associates repeatedly reached out to Menendez’s office through emails, calls, and meetings to intervene on his behalf in any dispute he found himself in.
These are just some of the detailed accounts of what Menendez and Melgen’s relationship was probably truly about in the indictment against Menendez. While it doesn’t look to good for Menendez, that the Senator did abuse his power in order to gain political financial gain from Melgen there may be issue trying to go after the two due to their decades-old relationship.
According to Menendez’s attorney, Abbe David Lowell prosecutors may find it hard to prosecute her client and Melgen because they “have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a 20-year relationship between doctor Melgen and Senator Menendez was something else.”
The proceedings will surly determine whether or not the Senator & Doctor’s friendship was a just that or a friends with political/financial benefits.