January 30th, 2013
09:26 PM ET
1 year ago

Sen. Robert Menendez denies improper travel and hiring prostitutes

Washington (CNN) - Sen. Robert Menendez's office issued a statement Wednesday saying he had traveled several times on a plane belonging to a Florida eye doctor who had given political donations to Menendez but that all the trips were "paid for and reported appropriately." The office also denied allegations the New Jersey Democrat had engaged the services of prostitutes.

The statement was issued after FBI agents searched the West Palm Beach office of the ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Investigators were seen carrying out boxes during the search, which began Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday. An FBI spokesman in Florida confirmed there was "law enforcement activity" at the location where the search occurred but did not mention Melgen or anyone else and did not explain what agents were investigating.

In 2011, the Internal Revenue Service hit Melgen with an $11 million tax lien. Melgen has not returned repeated calls from CNN.

The statement from Menendez's office described Melgen as a friend and political supporter and said the senator had traveled on Melgen's plane three times. A spokesperson told CNN one of the trips involved official travel for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee while the other two were personal trips. The spokeperson said the senator is not required to publicly disclose information concerning personal travel.

In April the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known as CREW, started receiving e-mails from someone alleging Menendez had made several trips to the Dominican Republic and partied with prostitutes. CREW was unable to verify the claims and forwarded the information to the FBI and the criminal division at the Justice Department.

Shortly before the November election, a conservative website, The Daily Caller, ran stories saying Menendez had flown to the Dominican Republic on Melgen's plane and engaged with prostitutes. Prostitution is legal in the Caribbean nation.

"Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false," Menendez's office said in its Wednesday statement.

Meanwhile, New Jersey state Sen. Sam Thompson, a Republican, sent a complaint to the Senate Ethics Committee in November calling for an investigation, saying Menendez may have violated Senate ethics by "repeatedly flying on a private jet to the Dominican Republic and other locations ... and soliciting prostitutes." Thompson said he did not hear back from the Ethics Committee.

Menendez's spokeswoman Patricia Enright confirmed to CNN the senator made a payment of $58,500 on January 4 to Melgen’s company for the full operating costs of the two flights Menendez took in August and September 2010 to the Dominican Republic.

Menendez made the payment following an exhaustive review of his travel conducted by his chief of staff Danny O'Brien in the wake of Thompson’s complaint.

Enright said it was an "oversight" on the part of the senator not to have paid for the flights at the time he took them. She could not explain why the veteran lawmaker didn't know to fully disclose the flights at the time.

Enright said the New Jersey GOP ethics complaint alleged four flights but Menendez's initial review found that he was not on two of the flights mentioned in the complaint and a third flight was for official DSCC business. Since they couldn't account for the one flight, his office decided to conduct the review which turned up one other flight.

Menendez's campaign counsel advised that because the senator and doctor are old friends, he could have claimed a friendship exemption. But Menendez decided he would prefer to pay for everything and wrote the $58,500 check from his personal funds.

Both the Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI said they could not comment and that their policies are to never confirm whether they are conducting investigations.

Menendez, who is divorced, is in line to become the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The senator has not been contacted by the ethics committee but assumes it is reviewing the matter. He has no plans to resign over the issue, Enright said.

Federal Election Commission records show Melgen has made at least $193,000 in election contributions since 1998, including more than $14,000 to Menendez's Senate campaigns. Records show the doctor also donated $5,000 to Menendez's political action committee.

-CNN's Ted Barrett, Adriana Hauser, Joe Johns, and Robert Yoon contributed to this report


Filed under: Bob Menendez • FBI • New Jersey
soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. Hogan's Goat

    Show some proof or shut it. So far this is mostly innuendo, but it doesn't sound good. If he's gone rotten, dump him.

    January 31, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  2. Wake up People!

    You gotta hand it to Fox-Lite, they absolutely adore their red meat......

    January 31, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  3. blake

    Another one bites the dust. Is it possible to be a person of integrity and be a politican? In view of the lack of integrity in the personal lives of our politicans, is it any surprise that the far left agenda has made so much progress in this country?

    January 31, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  4. Clarke

    Sounds like small change to me. They are just dropping seeds and wasting money for what ever reason.

    January 31, 2013 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  5. jesussaves_hisownass

    Frankly, Mr. Menedez should be proud of his work. He's actively doing what he can to support job creation. He's leading by example.

    January 31, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  6. Hogan's Goat

    If he's a bad apple, then toss him in the trash. The stress of politics gets to some people worse than others.

    January 31, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  7. ToldUso

    Not that I would condone that activity if true, but he's single and not carrying on in a Mpls airport bathroom. No big deal.

    January 31, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  8. BobInIrvine

    Another Rovian 101 tactic: witch hunt by innuendo.

    Disgusting. But that's the Republican party today.

    January 31, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  9. much thunder.little rain

    maybe menendez could hitch a plane ride with another politians mark sandord from south carolina....

    January 31, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  10. Al-NY,NY

    Gabbo

    Typical "do as I say not as I do" liberal. What a scum bag. I hope you CNN drones are proud of him !
    -------

    yeah....and the party of "family values" is SOOOO above that kind of thing. Let's see.....Vitter/Sanford/Gingrich/Craig come to mind immediately. And as stated before Sanford WILL be reelected in SC by the knuckle-dragging drones that would vote for Satan before a democrat

    January 31, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  11. Rosslaw

    Mendendez should give David Viitter a call to find out how Republicans handle, in Vitter's case, proven allegations of prostitution and get reelected.

    January 31, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  12. palintwit

    The DNC protecting pedophile Senators. Seems they are taking after the Catholic church.

    January 31, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  13. infidelbob

    Anonimous accuser accuses Senator of doing something completely legal with his personal time. End of story.

    January 31, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  14. hammerschlag

    A politician (M or F ) is by definition first and formost a liar. They promis things to get into office and after they are elected they steal form teh Government what they can. Let's face it USA, we have 512 corrupt congress men and woman and 110 Senators ( M and F ) they are all on the take, free dinners, plane rides and kick backs. These men and woman ( like Pelosi and others ) are scumbags and should be kicked out a long time ago.

    January 31, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  15. TiredOfPaying

    If we could just get rid of the Morality Police State here in the US, he would have been able to be a 'job creator' for US citizens. I find it facinating that we don't seem to have the money to keep police, teachers and firefighters on the streets but there is no limit to the dollars available to legislate Morality, fight an unwinnable War on Drugs and incarcerate more of our population than anyone on Earth.

    January 31, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  16. Peace

    Whether Sen. Robert Menendez did it or not does not affect my life neither of anyone. BUT those guns, I repeat those guns republicans are advocating, affects almost every and each individual.

    January 31, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  17. Tiz

    At least he didn't "Kennedy" the girls and leave them to drown in a sinking car.... so he's got that going for him....

    January 31, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. wm Scot

    At least he was hireing professional women instead of hitting on pages in the congress or looking for love in a bathroom stall of an airport. Whats the big deal other that having a doner fly him around like most of these politicans do !

    January 31, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  19. fedupagain

    Unacceptable behavior. Surprised CNN even reported this being I used to think CNN and MSNBC were the dictators lap dogs. Someone told me who knows said CNN and MSNBC run controversial subjects by the white house. Fox is the only station who has enough balls to report stories for and against democrates as well as republicians. The king tried to influence Fox`s sponsors so our nation could not really know what is going on, but something called freeedom of press and speech got in the way

    January 31, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  20. DMB

    You have to be very careful and listen to what a politician actually says. He actually said "HE" never hired any prostitutes. Now that releases him from the hiring, and it was probalby Dr. Salomon Melgen, who actually hired them. Now Sen. Robert Menendez's office will say that he was unaware that these women who showed up were prostitutes since he did not pay them. He will never deny that he had relations with any of the women, he will just say he was unaware that any of them were paid prostitutes. He is guilty as sin but then again, which politican in Washington is pure, honest, not in someones pocket, or pants?

    January 31, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  21. ritmocojo

    If this were a GOPer the story would be about soliciting other men or young boys in a public restroom.

    January 31, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  22. Bob

    In all fairness, the senator could have legally taken the flights as a friend and not reimbursed his friend. He could have enjoyed a legal, sexual activity in the Caribbean . So what is the big story? If I visited the nation and was single, I might have done so too. Especially if a long time friend invited me to go along for free. How many out there would have turned that down? Really....oh excluding women, gays and priests.

    January 31, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  23. Thomas

    @fedupagain
    Unacceptable behavior. Surprised CNN even reported this being I used to think CNN and MSNBC were the dictators lap dogs. Someone told me who knows said CNN and MSNBC run controversial subjects by the white house. Fox is the only station who has enough balls to report stories for and against democrates as well as republicians. The king tried to influence Fox`s sponsors so our nation could not really know what is going on, but something called freeedom of press and speech got in the way

    Fox isn't News , would you call the National Inquirer a newspaper ?

    January 31, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    So what if he did go another country and boogied on down with some ladies of the night. He didn't break any laws, and he apparently did it on his own time.

    January 31, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  25. J Turner

    "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"

    January 31, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
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