As he is about to see his son elected to Congress, US Sen. Bob Menendez is reportedly the subject of a new federal investigation similar to the criminal probe that resulted in his 2015 indictment on corruption charges.
A story published by Semafor said federal prosecutors have contacted people connected to Menendez in recent weeks.
Rob Menendez, Jr. is in a virtually uncontested race for the House of Representatives in the Hudson County based district where the Senator got started.
At least one person was served a subpoena from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The Hudson County lawmaker and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen were indicted for bribery, fraud, and making false statements in 2015.
The charges against Menendez were brought at that time by the Obama administration’s Public Integrity Section in Washington, on referral from a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey.
The April 2015 indictment alleged that Menendez asked top State Department officials to pressure the Dominican Republic’s government into enforcing a port-security contract that would benefit Melgen’s company.
Prosecutors also claimed that Menendez helped obtain visas for several of Melgen’s 20-something girlfriends to enter the United States.
Menendez also used his influence trying to derail the federal investigation that ultimately resulted in Melgen’s conviction in the biggest Medicare fraud case in history.
Melgen, a 66-year-old retinologist, had eye clinics from Port St. Lucie to Delray Beach. He was convicted in 2018 after investigators proved he falsely diagnosed and treated hundreds of elderly patients for macular degeneration, defrauding Medicare and other insurers out of millions of dollars in the process.
The doctor was sentenced to 17 years in prison but Menendez had a hand in convincing Donald Trump, in one of his final acts as president, to commute the sentence of the Palm Beach doctor.
Prosecutors claimed the eye doctor and the senator operated as a mutually beneficial bribery team: Melgen gave Menendez gifts and campaign contributions and in return, the lawmaker pressured federal agencies to enrich his benefactor.
Melgen donated a nearly a million dollars to support Menendez’s political campaigns, including $750,000 that prosecutors claimed was linked to personal benefits Menendez accepted.
Melgen also provided the New Jersey senator with gifts such as trips on his private jet, three nights at a five-star Paris hotel, a round of golf at a private club in West Palm Beach and access to an exclusive Dominican resort.
Menendez failed to report the value of those gifts on mandatory financial disclosure forms.
Menendez’s lawyers argued that the two men were simply good friends and the criminal case ended in a mistrial in 2017 after the jury deadlocked.
In the wake of that trial, only one Democrat challenged Menendez in the primary election but her candidacy was severely underfunded.
After progressive challenger Lisa McCormick earned the support of nearly 40 percent of the Democrats who voted in June, Menendez went on to defeat his Republican opponent Bob Hugin with 54 percent of the November vote.
The Justice Department would go on to drop the charges in 2018 against Menendez as a result of the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision to dismiss the corruption conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, which narrowed the legal definition of public corruption and made it harder for prosecutors to prove that a political official engaged in bribery.
The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics in 2018 “severely admonished” Menendez in a letter in as it found that “over a six-year period you knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Committee approval, and that you failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate Rule and federal law. Additionally, while accepting these gifts, you used your position as a Member of the Senate to advance Dr. Melgen’s personal and business interests.”
The issue with Melgen was preceded in 2006 when the office of the U.S. District Attorney of New Jersey, lead at that time by Chris Christie, investigated a rental deal with North Hudson Community Action Corporation.
No charges were brought against Menendez, who claimed the revelation of that investigation in the homestretch of the 2006 U.S. Senate campaign was intended to benefit Republican Tom Kean, Jr., who was the loser.
While the report did not specify what the focus of the current investigation is, two people familiar with the inquiry—one identify as being directly connected to the investigation and the other a New Jersey lawyer who has been told about the case—suggest that the broad outlines of the latest probe are similar to the 2017 case but involving a different group of people.