This summer, the defense team for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and a wealthy South Florida doctor accused the Justice Department of directing a “tainted” corruption case against the close friends.
They claimed the probe was initially based on “false” and politically motivated allegations of their having sex with underage prostitutes.
The Justice Department punched back this week, asserting those “specific allegations” were “corroborated” — or proven — in early stages of the investigation, even though the New Jersey Democrat and Dr. Salomon Melgen were not charged with that offense in the corruption case filed in Newark.
However, federal prosecutors in Miami, who initially reviewed the salacious sex-related allegations anonymously lodged against the pair, found the FBI’s evidence so lacking that they never presented an indictment to the grand jury here in 2013, according to law enforcement sources.
Nonetheless, the high-profile investigation regained steam when the Justice Department's public integrity section pursued influence-peddling charges against Menendez and Melgen in April.
The indictment accused the veteran lawmaker of helping Melgen with his multimillion-dollar Medicare billing dispute and other political favors in exchange for the Palm Beach County doctor’s array of gifts — including several unreported trips on a private plane to Melgen’s resort home in the Dominican Republic.
In response to a defense motion to dismiss the indictment, Justice Department prosecutors bristled over claims that they presented misleading corruption evidence to the grand jury in Newark — after the initial tip about allegations of the defendants’ having sex with underage prostitutes failed to pan out.
In their filing, prosecutors cited numerous witnesses’ grand jury testimonies and statements to the FBI, but those documents were sealed in the court record.
In their response, Justice Department prosecutors wrote that the defendants’ “corruption charges are not tainted by unproven allegations they solicited underage prostitutes.”