NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, were indicted Wednesday on federal corruption and bribery charges.
The heart of the charges is that Menendez advocated for Melgen's personal and business interests in exchange for travel — including at least 20 flights — and political and legal-defense contributions. The senator is also accused of failing to disclose gifts from Melgen.
Menendez said Wednesday he has always acted in accordance with the law and will be vindicated.
Here are some of the highlights from the indictment:
Melgen is accused of paying for private flights for Menendez and various unnamed guests, and of putting them up in a luxury hotel in Paris and a resort in the Dominican Republic. In places, the indictment reads more like a travel brochure than legal document.
"The ocean-side community has a marina, three golf courses, thirteen tennis courts, three polo playing fields, equestrian facilities, a 245-acre shooting facility, a spa, beaches, restaurants and a hotel," it says of Casa de Campo, where Melgen had a villa where Menendez allegedly stayed several times.
The indictment says Melgen used his American Express points to get a hotel room in Paris worth $5,000 for three nights for Menendez, who is not married, and who traveled to France to meet a girlfriend.
Menendez is accused of trying to help three different girlfriends of Melgen, who was married, receive visas. All were models from other countries — Brazil, the Dominican Republican and Ukraine. In one case, the Dominican girlfriend and her sister were initially denied visas but later granted them after an intervention by Menendez.
THE BUSINESS DEAL
Menendez is accused of trying to get the State Department to intervene in a contract dispute involving a business Melgen owned in the Dominican Republic.
The company, ICSSI, had a contract to install and operate X-ray equipment to inspect shipping containers entering Dominican ports. The indictment says Menendez met with an assistant secretary of state to advocate for Melgen's interests on May 16, 2012. The same day, the indictment says, Melgen and his family donated $40,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee's federal election account and $20,000 to Menendez's legal defense fund.
Also, the same day, the State Department official emailed his staff reminding them that an investigation the previous year found it was a commercial dispute, not a law-enforcement issue. In June 2012, the assistant secretary emailed his staff about the issue again, saying: "This is the case about which Sen. Menendez threatened to call me to testify at an open hearing. I suspect that was a bluff, but he is very much interested in its resolution. A reminder that I owe the Senator an answer to the question, 'What can we do to resolve this matter?'"
THE MEDICARE ISSUE
Menendez is also accused of advocating for Melgen in a Medicare billing dispute for several years.
It started in 2008, when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services started to investigate Melgen's billing practice regarding a drug called Lucentis that was stored in single-use vials for injection.
The Food and Drug Administration allows each vial to be used for only one eye of one patient, saying using it on multiple patients or both eyes of one patient increased the risk of infection.
The indictment says Melgen reused vials but billed for a new one each time, meaning he billed the government for vials he never actually used.
Officials said Melgen's practice owed nearly $9 million for overpayments of the drug.
The indictment says Menendez spoke with Department of Health and Human Services officials on Menendez's behalf, including attempting to arrange a phone call with the secretary, and also tried to get two other senators to take up the cause.
A lobbyist for Melgen sent an email suggesting that the aid helped their case.
Mulvihill reported from Haddonfield, N.J.