January 30th, 2013
09:26 PM ET
10 years 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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

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. Sarah

    "denied allegations the New Jersey Democrat had engaged the services of prostitutes".......Well of course he's going to deny it. That's what most politicians do......Lie and Deny.

    "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".........He forgot to add it's Bush's fault. (Looks to me good old Menendez got caught now it's time to blame others.)

    January 30, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  2. Meadowlarklemonjr

    This proves that minorities are just as prone to be diabolical as any other politician. Dont these guys get it? They are in DC to serve.... not get served!

    January 30, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  3. Victoria

    Hm. CREW, the very liberal organization tipped off the FBI to the allegations.

    And CNN: the New York Post is reporting that young MALE prostitutes were involved. Can you verify this?

    January 30, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |

    Y.A.W.N. Political wizard hunts are so defunt GOP party ploys. Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!

    January 30, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    When he get caught he said no ,but when no body know he quietly enjoy it with a lot of fun.

    January 30, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  6. Thomas

    If he did mess around and he's is lying . I hope his wife takes his suit to the cleaners with him in it !

    I also hope he would step down and not ask me for forgiveness when he wants to return to politics.

    January 30, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  7. Par for the Course.......

    Another Demo pedophile..........

    January 30, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  8. Stephen

    So sad Joe Kyrillos did not win this seat, he is a good guy and would not have disgraced our state like Bob..

    January 30, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  9. Jorge Sedano

    wow.. Reid denies and says consider the source... but the full weight of the US government came down on this today... nothing small is going on here... just old politicians standing up for each other..

    January 30, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  10. Randy Dugas

    the present leadership in congress and the white house scares the hell out of me because their lack of morales and corrupt actions that come up everyday. Is there such a thing as a honest politican any more? some one who is concerned about those who have fallen on hard times, who have lost their home and their job. it's so sad when you see our leaders and you know their just there to fatten their bank accounts and don't care about anything else. it's time we all pray for our country and it's future.

    January 30, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |

    Is this was a GOP Senator, it would be on 24/7/365 hypercoverage......so far.....a pittance.

    January 30, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  12. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Until the FBI can show that there was something that connects to the Senator, leave him alone. There is no reason to go further. I am sure that some on the right wing attack squad will call for his resignation. They shouldn't be casting stones.

    January 30, 2013 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  13. joe

    more to this than meets the eye

    January 30, 2013 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  14. FubarObama

    I am from NJ and this loser is the most worthless senator ever. Do not believe his lies. They are TRUE.

    January 30, 2013 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  15. Tyler

    Hm, so this fine representative (and pedophile, yes, these prostitutes were underage) of the Democratic Party is in D.C. writings laws...wonderful...a party of true sickos. I'm sure him and Bill swap stories all the time. The citizens of this country are tired of all of these 'noblemen', drunk on their power and greed doing disgusting things. They should all just go away.

    January 30, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  16. wahoo69

    Innocent... Dems do no wrong.

    January 31, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  17. Knowitall

    Wow, I bet it pained CNN to post this story regarding Menendez. Every other new outlet posted it already. Typical of CNN...protect the left and the Obama administration.

    January 31, 2013 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  18. stars

    Another witch hunt ppl. He is not with his wife so he is free to spread love where he want.Stop worry about what other ppl is doing in the bed room and get some action going on in your on bed room. you will be much happier.

    January 31, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  19. lol

    Funny politicians themselves are prostitutes. They dont care who they screw as long as they make their dollar as well.

    January 31, 2013 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  20. bill davis

    Let's hope they were female prostitudes

    January 31, 2013 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  21. redhotmamasita

    IF IT LOOKS, WALKS, SMELLS LIKE A PEDOPHILE, IT IS A PEDOPHILE.... he had a pedophile working in his office, he traveled abroad for access to minors....even if the FBI/HOLDER covers up evidence they find of child rape and shuts up the women, he can be KICKED OUT OF THE SENATE, which is exactly what should happen

    January 31, 2013 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  22. Rick

    Let the guy have a little fun. Hell, all those scoundrels in D.C. are one and the same. Horny as the rest of the population.

    January 31, 2013 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  23. Name lynn

    Robert an them under covers knew what they was going, buying honey with other people money, but when obama ask for the white house leaders for a fiscal cliff budget, them people saying no, whatt the heck wrong with the people.

    January 31, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  24. fiftyfive55

    As long as he pais for the hoker with his own money,who cares ?

    January 31, 2013 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  25. joedog

    He's dirty. Get the National Enquirer, becauase CNN and the rest of the main stream media will do nothing.

    January 31, 2013 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9