Sen. Robert Menendez's office said Wednesday night that he reimbursed
a prominent Florida political donor $58,500 for the full cost of two of
three trips Menendez took on the donor's plane to the Dominican
Republic in 2010.
There was no public disclosure.
senator paid for the two trips out of his personal account and no
reporting requirements apply," said Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright.
Details of Menendez's trips emerged as his office said unsubstantiated allegations that the senator engaged in sex with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic are false.
FBI searched the West Palm Beach, Florida, office of the donor, eye doctor
Salomon Melgen, on Tuesday night and early Wednesday, but it was
unclear if the raid was related to Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.
third trip by Menendez aboard Melgen's plane, a campaign fund-raising
journey to the donor's residence in the Dominican Republic, took place
in May 2010. That trip was reported to the Federal Election Commission,
Menendez categorized the other two trips as
personal. The first was from Aug. 6-9, 2010, a round trip from South
Florida to the Dominican Republic. The second personal trip was from
Sept. 3-6, 2010, from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic and back.
could have invoked what is known as a "friendship exemption" regarding
the two personal trips, which would have required the senator to report
the travel to the Senate Ethics Committee as a gift. Instead, Menendez
chose to reimburse the full cost of the two trips.
Daily Caller, a conservative website, reported shortly before the
November election that Menendez traveled on Melgen's private plane to
the Dominican Republic to engage in sex with prostitutes.
office said that any accusations of engaging with prostitutes "are
manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false."
FBI headquarters in Washington, spokesman Jason Pack said the bureau
"cannot comment on the existence or status of an investigation." Justice
Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler also declined to comment.
On Tuesday, Menendez became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, succeeding Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
filed in Palm Beach County show an Internal Revenue Service lien
against Melgen of more than $11.1 million for unpaid taxes from 2006
through 2009. Prior liens for taxes from 1998 to 2002 were subsequently
withdrawn, records show.
Earlier Wednesday, Menendez's
office said Melgen has been a friend and political supporter of the
senator for many years and that the three trips that Menendez took have
been "paid for and reported appropriately." Menendez's office later
changed the statement's wording to specify that the trips had been "paid
for or reported appropriately" to correct the impression that all three
trips had been publicly reported.
Melgen is involved in
numerous businesses, all sharing the same address in West Palm Beach,
according to records filed with the Department of State in Florida.
Tuesday and early Wednesday, FBI agents were seen inside the West Palm
Beach building, walking its halls and standing beside shelves full of
The Daily Caller began publishing stories on its
website about Menendez and Melgen on Nov. 1, when it reported that two
women from the Dominican Republic said Menendez paid them for sex
earlier in 2012. Prostitution is legal in the Caribbean nation.
is listed as having an ownership interest in DRM Med Assist, which
Federal Aviation Administration records show is the owner of a CL-600
Challenger plane. Flight records for the aircraft were not immediately
Melgen, a registered Democrat, has made
$193,350 in political contributions since 1998, including $14,200 to
Menendez, according to Federal Election Commission records. Menendez was
chairman of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, which raises
money for Democratic Senate candidates, from 2009-2011.
a lawyer, is a former mayor of Union City, N.J., and also served in the
New Jersey state General Assembly and the New Jersey state Senate. He
is divorced and has two children.
Melgen, 58, is a native
of the Dominican Republic, where he earned his medical degree from the
Universidad Nacional Pedro HenrDiquez UreIna in 1978. He has lived in
the U.S. since at least 1980, holding an internship, residency and
fellowship at hospitals in Connecticut, Missouri and Massachusetts,
according to records filed with the Florida Department of Health.
has been licensed to practice in Florida since 1986 and purchased the
West Palm Beach plot of land where he built his main office in 1991.
Over the years, Melgen has become regarded as a top ophthalmologist,
speaking at conferences and even operating on then-Gov. Lawton Chiles in
1997. The governor later appointed Melgen to a state panel on HMOs.
to Melgen's offices Wednesday were forwarded to an answering service
where receptionists told callers to try back Thursday. Calls to Melgen's
home in North Palm Beach, which is appraised at $2.1 million, went
On the website for his medical practice,
Melgen writes: "I am always asked what sets me apart from most other
doctors, and I would have to say that I do not consider myself to be a
'cookbook' physician. My patients are my number one priority, and when I
am looking to treat a diagnosis I try to look at all the data at hand
and extrapolate the best treatment instead of solely adhering to what
the current `standard' of treatment may be."