The raid of an opthalmologist's office has gone national, with ties to a U.S. Senator and prostitution allegations.
Photo: Robert Menendez/Senate.gov
A local eye doctor owing millions to the IRS is probably not something that would make its way to the New York Times, but throw in a link to a U.S. Senator and the alleged partaking in prostitutes, and you have the makings of another Washington scandal.
First the update: New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez denies allegations that Palm Beach County Doctor Salomon Melgen provided him with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. In fact, the democrat's office claims those claims were "manufactured by a politically motivated right wing blog."
Menendez does admit to flying on Melgen's private plane three times to the Dominican Republic, the doctor's home country. He has reportedly paid back more than $58,000 to cover the costs of two of the three trips.
There was no public disclosure, because Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright says the New Jersey senator paid for the two trips out of his personal account, so there were no reporting requirements.
The third trip was a fundraising journey to the Dominican Republic residence of Melgen, who was a Menendez donor. Menendez's office says that trip was reported to the Federal Election Commission.
Now, the background: Despite owing millions to the IRS, records show that Dr. Melgen, who has offices in West Palm Beach, Wellington and Port St. Lucie, has donated $450,000 to candidates over the years, including Menendez, Florida's U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and several local current and former U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ron Klein, Alcee Hastings and Tim Mahoney.
FBI agents raided the doctor's West Palm Beach office this week, taking out boxes of evidence, but not speaking to the media.
Menendez has served in Washington D.C. since 1992, when he was first elected to the U.S. House. He was elected to the Senate in 2006 and re-elected in November.
He just became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a member of the so-called "Gang of 8" Senators. That's the group of bipartisan lawmakers, including Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who came up with a plan for immigration reform.