Why Did This Senator’s Name Show Up In A Little Black ‘Ledger Of Prostitution’?

Dr. Salomon Melgen (left) and Sen. Bob Menendez
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August 26, 2015 6:00 a.m.

When FBI agents searched the practice of a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist for evidence of health care fraud, they came across a black notebook filled with names and phone numbers, including that of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), in addition to some photos of women in lingerie printed with their body measurements.

Federal prosecutors say Menendez was referenced on nine separate pages in the notebook, which belonged to Dr. Salomon Melgen, the longtime friend and donor accused of bribing the senator in exchange for his advocacy on behalf of Melgen’s business interests. An FBI agent wrote in a search warrant that agents at the scene said the notebook “looked to be a ledger of prostitution activities,” according to an affidavit.

The notebook was entered under seal Monday as one exhibit in flurry of legal filings by the Justice Department that responded to motions to dismiss the federal corruption charges against Menendez and Melgen. The men have denied any wrongdoing and are fighting the charges; last month, Melgen’s attorneys filed a motion to have the notebook suppressed as evidence on the grounds that it was illegally seized from his offices.

Health care fraud agents first came across the notebook while executing a search warrant in January 2013 at Melgen’s West Palm Beach, Florida practice. They found it on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in Melgen’s office and noted that Menendez’s name was listed inside, according to an affidavit signed by FBI Special Agent Gregory Sheehy.

In Sheehy’s recollection, the notebook contained the names of several women that were almost always listed along with a phone number and, sometimes, a nationality. One page had an entry for a woman by the name of “Dixi” that was accompanied by “what appears to be a daily rate or price of ‘1200-1500,'” according to the affidavit.

Sheehy wrote that Menendez’s information appeared alongside the names and phone numbers of other women and men, including one woman who was identified as being from “Spain” and another from “Macoris,” a city in the Dominican Republic.

Agents also found what appeared to be professionally taken photos of women in lingerie inside Melgen’s desk, four of which were printed with the woman’s bust and waist measurements, according to the affidavit.

Allegations that Menendez and Melgen engaged with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, where Melgen maintains a resort, dogged them for years before the pair were hit with a 22-count indictment this spring. Prosecutors acknowledged in a filing opposing Menendez’s motions to dismiss the charges that their investigation originally sprang from those unproven allegations.

“The indictment here, of course, charges only corruption and does not include any allegations of soliciting underage prostitution. The defendants argue, however, that the indictment should be dismissed because the entire investigation was tainted by false allegations of underage prostitution—allegations they assert were likely initiated by political enemies,” they wrote. “Notably, this section of the defendants’ brief includes no citations to any legal authority supporting their position that an indictment should be dismissed if the investigation was predicated on unproven allegations or allegations made by someone with questionable motives.”

Prosecutors further stated that “eyewitnesses described a party attended by defendant Melgen in Casa de Campo—where defendant Melgen has a home and where defendant Menendez often visited—involving prostitutes.” They added that one of Melgen’s pilots described women who “look[ed] like escorts” traveling on the eye doctor’s private jet.

Menendez has acknowledged taking three trips on Melgen’s private plane in 2010, for which he later reimbursed the doctor with a $58,500 check that the affidavit states was also found in the doctor’s West Palm Beach office.

Sheehy’s affidavit also showed that the FBI confirmed Menendez “had taken multiple trips to the Dominican Republic during time frames in which one unidentified alleged minor victim specifically claimed to have had sex with him in the Dominican Republic,” prosecutors said in a separate filing.

Menendez has long dismissed the allegations as “smears” from right-wing news sites and, more recently, as a plot concocted by the Cuban government to discredit him.

The senator’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday to TPM’s request for comment.

But a spokeswoman for the senator, Tricia Enright, on Monday said in a statement to US News & World Report that Menendez’s motions showed the DOJ solicited the prostitution allegations to shore up a weak corruption case.

“The oppositions the DOJ filed [on Monday] continue that refrain, now with new salacious and baseless allegations, again having nothing to do with the actual charges in the case,” Enright told the publication. “While talk of prostitution may make for good headlines, it has absolutely nothing to do with this case.”

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