New Rumors of Corruption against NJ Senator Menendez

According to numerous press reports, the feds are circling New Jersey senator Robert Menendez.  Any day now (it has been reported for weeks) the senator will be indicted for accepting gifts from a wealthy friend, eye doctor Salomon Melgen, in exchange for using his senate position to change Medicare rules in a way that would allow Dr. Melgen to reap millions of dollars.  The gifts allegedly included three flights to the Dominican Republic on Melgen’s private jet.  (Menendez later reimbursed Melgen for these flights).

Accusations against senator Menendez and Dr. Melgen are nothing new.  In 2013, a letter allegedly written by a Dominican woman (who later recanted) claimed that the senator had sex with prostitutes, some of them underage.  She accused him of frequenting orgies allegedly organized by Dr. Melgen, who maintained a home in the Dominican Republic.  The senator vehemently denied the charges and nothing came of them directly.  However, the FBI’s investigation into those discredited claims apparently led to the newest allegations against the senator.  The feds raided Dr. Melgen’s south Florida offices in January 2013. According to 2012 Medicare data, Dr.Melgen had received more in Medicare reimbursements than any other doctor in the country.

These south Florida ties add another level of intrigue to the investigation.  Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, is popular among Miami’s Cuban anti-Castro crowd and wealthy Cuban expats have donated to his campaigns.  These connections have led many to speculate that the allegations of underage prostitutes may have been ginned up by the Cuban government in an effort to smear the Senator.

Menendez also weathered an earlier FBI corruption investigation initiated during the George W. Bush administration by New Jersey’s then-United States Attorney Chris Christie.  Christie served criminal grand jury subpoenas during the final stretch of the 2006 senatorial campaign, in what appeared to be a heavy-handed effort to help the GOP candidate, Tom Kean, Jr.  Kean enthusiastically pummeled Menendez with these allegations up until election day.  But nothing much came of the investigation after the initial flurry of subpoenas.  Five years later, the FBI officially notified the senator that the investigation was closed without charges ever being filed.

The FBI may well view Menendez as a big fish that got away. There may be more substance to the current allegations than in the earlier investigations that fizzled.  But given the feds’ past failures in making their case against Menendez, and their seeming hesitancy to file the current charges, it is far too early to assume anything.

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