The high-profile federal raid on a South Florida ophthalmologist’s office was more about potential Medicare fraud than about U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, a longtime friend of Dr. Salomon Melgen.
Joining FBI agents on the two-day raid at the doctor’s West Palm Beach eye center: a team of investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which investigates Medicare wrongdoing.
The FBI is separately examining the ties between Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, and Melgen in a parallel corruption investigation launched last year, The Miami Herald has learned.
FBI agents are investigating the allegations of a shadowy tipster who claimed the doctor flew Menendez on his plane to the Dominican Republic.
Earlier this month, Menendez quietly sent a $58,500 personal check to Melgen’s company to reimburse the cost of two flights to and from the Dominican Republic, the senator’s office confirmed Wednesday.
Menendez strenuously denied the accusation and blamed it on an election-year conspiracy involving the conservative website, the Daily Caller, which stands by its reporting.
“Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false,” Menendez’s office said in a statement Wednesday, following the raid on Melgen’s clinics in West Palm Beach and two other South Florida locations.
The ethics watchdog group that brought the tipster to the FBI’s attention also suspected that a partisan, political motive underpinned the allegation about the prostitutes.
The information was pushed just months before Menendez’s successful reelection in November.