Menendez case – Senator and doctor friend could be charged this week
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal prosecutors are moving toward charging a Florida eye doctor over his dealings with New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, according to a person familiar with a Justice Department investigation into their relationship.
The person said prosecutors are expected to bring charges against Dr. Salomon Melgen, whose medical offices were raided two years ago by federal authorities. Melgen has not been cooperating with prosecutors against Menendez, according to the person, who was not authorized to comment on the record about an ongoing federal investigation.
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, could also be charged as early as this week. He has repeatedly said that he has done nothing wrong and that he has always served honorably in Congress.
The investigation has centered on whether Menendez abused his office by taking actions to benefit the doctor, who provided Menendez with flights to and from the Dominican Republic on his luxury jet. Those actions include becoming involved in a dispute on Medicare billing.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment Monday.
Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined the Senate in 2006 after serving more than a decade in the House of Representatives.
Under scrutiny, Menendez acknowledged in 2013 that he flew multiple times on Melgen's private jet to the Dominican Republic and initially failed to properly pay for the trips. Menendez agreed to reimburse Melgen $58,500. His office later disclosed a third flight, from Florida to New Jersey in 2011, saying he had repaid Melgen $11,250 for it.
Last year, the senator disclosed his campaign accounts had paid a law firm $250,000 for legal costs related to Department of Justice and Senate Ethics Committee investigations of his ties to the Floridian.
Amid reports earlier this month of looming criminal charges, Menendez declared his innocence and said that he and Melgen had a close friendship dating back decades.
"We celebrated holidays together," he said. "We have been there for family weddings and sad times like funerals and have given each other birthday, holiday and wedding presents, just as friends do."
Melgen earned renewed scrutiny when government data last year showed he had received more in Medicare reimbursements in 2012 than any other doctor in the country. He has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
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