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Robert Menendez's Scandals
- Robert Menendez
- March, 2015
- Open Case
He joins of long list of New Jersey politicians, including fellow Senators, (Harrison Williams, Robert Torricelli, and Jon Corzine) who've been accused of wrongdoing somewhere along the line.
And although New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez proclaims his innocence, saying the investigation is part of a smear campaign and declared he's not going anywhere, the Justice Department is reported to be preparing criminal corruption charges against him.
The case centers on Menendez, one of the leading Hispanic lawmakers in Congress, with Florida businessman Salomon Melgen.
The two are longtime friends and Melgen is a long time contributor to Menendez campaigns.
But the government investigation cites instances of wrongdoing, including plane trips by Menendez. The Senator acknowledged that he initially failed to properly pay for some trips and agreed to reimburse Melgen more than $58,000 to fully pay for two flights and later paid more than $11,000 for a 2011 flight.
The Senator also admitted taking actions that could help Melgen, like contacting U.S health agencies to ask about billing practices and policies. There were also rumors about the alleged solicitations of prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, but the purported prostitutes recanted and the charges collapsed.
When the hint of a scandal first emerged in early March, 2015, Menendez denied any wrong doing.
Although he's a fellow Democrat, Menendez has been a critic of President Obama's policies on Cuba and Iran and the indictment came while the U.S. and other world powers were trying to negotiate a nuclear policy deal with the Iranians.
On the day the charges were announced, Menendez came out swinging again:
The Senator said he wasn't going anywhere, but he was forced to relinquish his minority leadership post on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
And on the day of his court appearance on April 2nd, 2015, Menendez and his attorney again denied wrongdoing.
In a dramatic post-script to the Menendez charges, Dr. Melgen himself was named in a separate indictment, charging him with a 76 count Medicare fraud scheme.
Prosecutors said he tried to bilk the health care program out of as much as 190-million dollars, and was paid more than 105-million.
In 2012, health officials said, the eye surgeon billed Medicaid more than any doctor in the country – an eye popping $21-million bucks.
In November 2017 a mistrial was declared in Menendez’s federal court trial, after the jury repeatedly told the judge it couldn’t reach a verdict. The Justice Department announced in January 2018 that it would retry Menendez on the same charges. But a few weeks later, federal prosecutors decided to drop the case, after a judge threw out the bribery charges related to the campaign donations. That decision was seen as bolstering Menendez’s bid for re-election in November 2018.
Melgen was convicted in April of that same year of 67 counts of health care fraud in a separate case.