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  #21  
Old 03-05-2013, 09:53 AM
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http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/201...o-vindication/

New Jersey Sen. Menendez Says He Looks Forward To Vindication
March 5, 2013 9:38 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez, who has maintained all along that he never paid prostitutes for sex, says he is looking forward to whatever evidence emerges from courts in the Dominican Republic to vindicate him.

A Dominican lawyer has released an affidavit from a 23-year-old woman saying she fabricated a story about Menendez paying her for sex.

That lawyer, Vincio Castillo Seman, told reporters at a news conference Monday that a woman identified as Nexis de los Santos now claims she’s never met Menendez.

Castillo, the son of a Dominican presidential adviser, has been entwined in the scandal himself, accused of hosting outings on his yacht in which Menendez used the services of prostitutes.

Like Menendez, he has strongly denied the allegations.
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  #22  
Old 03-05-2013, 07:00 PM
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http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/...194989091.html

Sen. Menendez Bill Would Have Benefitted Donor
By STEPHEN BRAUN | Monday, Mar 4, 2013 | Updated 9:32 PM


Senator Robert 'Pumpkinhead" Menendez (D-NJ) speaks at the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation and Community Development hearing on "Recovering From Superstorm Sandy: Rebuilding our Housing and Transportation Infrastructure" on Capitol Hill, December 20, 2012 in Washington, DC.


Sen. Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez sponsored legislation with incentives for natural gas vehicle conversions that would benefit the biggest political donor to his re-election, the same eye doctor whose private jet Menendez used for two personal trips to the Dominican Republic, an Associated Press investigation found.

The disclosure reflects the latest intersection between the New Jersey Democrat who is the subject of an ethics inquiry on Capitol Hill and the Florida doctor involved in a federal criminal investigation.

Dr. Salomon Melgen invested in Gaseous Fuel Systems Corp. of Weston, Fla., and joined its board of directors in early 2010, according to the company's chief executive and a former company consultant. GFS, as the company is known, designs, manufactures and sells products to convert diesel-fuel fleets to natural gas. The amount of Melgen's investment is confidential under rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but a 2009 document filed with the SEC showed the company required a minimum individual investment at that time of $51,500.

Menendez was a principal supporter of a natural gas bill from 2009 through 2012 that would boost tax credits and grants to truck and heavy vehicle fleets that converted to alternative fuels. The bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, and after it was revived in 2012, the NAT GAS Act failed to win the needed 60 votes to advance.

While the bill was under consideration between 2009 and 2011, the former consultant for GFS spent $220,000 lobbying Menendez's staff and other congressional and federal officials on the act's provisions as well as other regulatory issues, according to interviews and Senate records.

There is no evidence that Menendez offered direct help or intervened on behalf of the company or Melgen. Instead, the connection between the two men's interests in natural gas is the latest example of the close symmetry between the senator — who recently rose to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — and his millionaire backer. It illustrates the way Menendez's political clout has at times overlapped with Melgen's financial investments.

In recent weeks, Menendez has acknowledged other dealings with Melgen. Menendez was compelled to reimburse $58,000 for two flights aboard Melgen's private jet that he had previously failed to report, prompting scrutiny by the Senate Ethics Committee. Menendez also acknowledged that his office had contacted U.S. health agencies in 2009 and 2012 to question their billing practices and policies amid a dispute between Melgen, an eye specialist, and federal health authorities. FBI agents in January searched Melgen's offices in Florida and seized files as part of a criminal investigation.

Menendez also raised concerns last year with state and Commerce Department officials about the Dominican Republic's reluctance to enforce a port security contract with a company that Melgen partly owns.

A spokeswoman for Menendez, Patricia Enright, told the AP that the senator personally had no known discussions with either Melgen or others associated with GFS about the legislation or its impact on the company.

"Sen. Menendez has long been a proponent of the increased deployment of natural gas vehicles because they would reduce air pollution, increase energy security, and lower transportation costs,'' Enright said. ``The senator's staff first began working on this issue in early 2009 and introduced the bipartisan NAT GAS Act later that year.''

She said it was unclear whether the senator will continue to support the bill he had sponsored.

Melgen's attorney in Miami, Kirk Ogrosky, told the AP in a statement that ``Dr. Melgen has never discussed his involvement with Gaseous Fuel Systems Corp. with either Sen. Menendez or his staff.''

An SEC document filed last week by GFS showed that Melgen remains on the company's board of directors. An earlier document filed by the firm in May 2011 was the first to show Melgen as a director. That SEC record showed a $6 million investment in the firm from two unnamed individuals.

The company's top executive, Ken Green, said Melgen is a key investor but has had no influence on the company's decision-making and has not attended any director's meetings since he joined the firm.

"Dr. Melgen hasn't ever been to our offices, not once,'' Green told the AP. ``He's a passive investor.''

Green said the Senate bill that Menendez supported would provide only limited help to his company because most of its provisions are aimed at heavy on-road vehicles like truck rigs and bus fleets. GFS has pioneered an engine conversion system that can be installed on diesel-fueled vehicles, but Green said it is marketed exclusively for off-road equipment, such as massive mining trucks. The tax credits proposed by the bill would do little to offset the cost to buyers of the off-road trucks, which can cost as much as $8 million, Green said.

"This bill won't do much of anything for us,'' he said.

But in 2010, when Melgen first invested in GFS, the firm was actively considering marketing its natural gas engine devices for on-road vehicles. The bill, both in its 2009 and 2012 versions, authorized changes to IRS rules allowing larger tax credits for on-road, natural gas-supplied trucks and vehicles as well as grants for research. The proposal also urged the Environmental Protection Agency to streamline rules covering the conversion of diesel and gas engines to natural gas and alternative fuels.

GFS said in October 2010 in a press release that its strategy ``integrates four related areas of business development,'' including ``on-road coal truck conversions.'' The release, written by the company's consultant and then-director of strategic projects, Elio Muller, also said that ``a vast number of on-road 18-wheeler tractor-trailer trucks hauling coal'' in the Appalachian region of Kentucky and West Virginia could be converted to combination diesel-natural gas engines with the GFS system.

Muller, a former Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration involved in several Tampa businesses, said last week that he introduced Melgen to Green and other GFS officials in early 2010. Green also said Muller was instrumental in bringing the company to Melgen's attention. Muller said he has known Melgen from Florida's Democratic political circles dating back to the late 1990s. At one point, Muller drew up plans to start a business, Melgen & Muller Inc., but the men never followed through.

Melgen has made investments in health-related companies since the 1990s, according to SEC reports, but his GFS stake is his only evident natural gas-related investment. Green said he met several times with Melgen and found him to be an ``intelligent investor'' but could not explain his sudden interest in natural gas.

"I don't know how he found out about natural gas, but he liked what we were doing and thought it was innovative,'' Green said.

By early 2010, when Melgen formally joined GFS, Menendez had already taken on a key role in backing the natural gas bill, joining Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah as out-front sponsors.

The NAT GAS Act quickly drew energy and environmental battle lines. Oil and alternative energy magnate T. Boone Pickens led corporate natural gas industry backers of the bill, aided by the Obama administration and influential environmental groups. Arrayed against the bill were top oil and coal firms and even some green activists, joined by industrialists David and Charles Koch, whose political action group, Americans for Prosperity, harnessed opposition from conservative groups.

Green said he did not authorize or hire any lobbyists on behalf of GFS because he was skeptical about broadening into the markets for on-road trucks. But he did not block the activities of Muller, who in addition to his consulting role with GFS, had also started his own firm, Diesel 2 Gas. It aimed to license GFS technology and use the firm's parts to outfit on-road trucks.

In June 2010, representing both GFS and Diesel 2 Gas, Muller testified before an EPA panel in Ann Arbor, Mich., about what he called ``cumbersome and unnecessary'' rules that hurt GFS and other natural gas firms. The EPA agreed to alter its regulations in April 2011.

Between 2009 and 2011, Muller also ran an independent consulting firm, Muller Group Inc., which paid $220,000 to lobbyists from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP to lobby for the NAT GAS Act and related issues.

Muller said he accompanied the lobbyists in at least one meeting with Menendez' staff about the bill but could not recall details. Melgen and Muller joined Menendez at a signing ceremony in Miami in January 2010 for the senator's book, ``Growing American Roots.'' And last June, they joined Menendez at the annual U.S.-Spain Council Annual Forum in Jersey City.

Muller said he did not discuss his lobbying activities with Melgen, even though they were both involved with GFS.

Both Muller and Melgen also have fundraising ties to Menendez. Muller gave $5,000 to Menendez' New Jersey Senate re-election campaign in 2011. Melgen has been a staunch supporter, giving more than $14,000 directly to Menendez since the late 1990s and, through his eye clinic, donating $700,000 last year to a ``super'' political committee that supported Democratic Senate candidates. The committee, in turn, spent $582,000 to back Menendez' campaign.
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  #23  
Old 03-15-2013, 12:17 PM
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http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/...198387211.html

Grand Jury Investigating NJ Sen. Menendez: Report
Friday, Mar 15, 2013 | Updated 12:17 PM



Sen. Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez is being investigated by a Miami federal grand jury for his role in advocating for the business interests of a wealthy donor and friend, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

A story on the newspaper's website said that as part of the probe federal agents have questioned witnesses about the interactions between Menendez, D-N.J., and Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen. The newspaper said the grand jury also issued subpoenas for Melgen's business and financial records. The newspaper cited unidentified people it said were familiar with the probe.

Federal agents have not contacted Menendez, one person told the newspaper.

The Post said Melgen declined to say Thursday whether he knew anything about the investigation, but he said any probe would find no wrongdoing.

Melgen attorney Kirk Ogrosky said the eye doctor is proud of his relationship with the senator and had no worries about any federal investigation.

Menendez and Melgen's overlapping interests have repeatedly raised questions in recent months. Menendez was compelled to reimburse $58,000 for two flights to the Dominican Republic aboard Melgen's private jet for personal trips in 2010 that he previously had failed to report, prompting scrutiny by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Menendez also has acknowledged contacting U.S. health agencies to question their billing practices and policies amid a dispute between Melgen and federal authorities. And Menendez was a key sponsor of a natural gas bill that could have aided a Melgen investment in a Florida company that markets a conversion system for natural gas truck engines.

Melgen has given more than $14,000 directly to Menendez's political campaigns since the late 1990s and, through his eye clinic, donated $700,000 last year to a “super” political committee that supported Democratic Senate candidates. The committee, in turn, spent $582,000 to back Menendez's re-election effort.

The investigation began with two disparate issues, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke with the Post. First, auditors had been reviewing allegations that Melgen was fraudulently overbilling Medicare for treating his patients. Melgen's attorney has said the doctor's billing was completely appropriate.

Then, in the fall, the FBI began looking into an anonymous tipster's allegations that Melgen had arranged prostitutes for Menendez in the Dominican Republic. Such an arrangement could constitute providing a favor or gift under the bribery statute that investigators have been reviewing, the Post said.

Lawyers for Menendez and Melgen have said the allegations involving prostitutes, which also were made by the conservative website the Daily Caller, were absurd. Menendez has said the allegations, which first surfaced during his re-election campaign last year, were part of a Republican smear campaign.
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  #24  
Old 03-19-2013, 10:30 AM
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http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/201...tution-claims/

Sen. Menendez Hopes For U.S. Investigation Into Prostitution Claims
March 18, 2013 6:16 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A spokeswoman for Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez says the senator hopes U.S. authorities join their Dominican counterparts in investigating the origin of reports he paid women in the Dominican Republic for sex.

Menendez spokeswoman Tricia Enright says Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, has maintained all along such claims are false and part of a smear campaign.

Her comments came after a Dominican police spokesman said Monday that three women were paid to falsely claim in videotaped interviews that Menendez paid them money for sex.

Enright says it’s a crime to intentionally make false reports to a federal law enforcement agency.

The Washington Post has separately reported that Menendez is under a federal grand jury investigation over reports that he traded favors with a prominent campaign donor.
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  #25  
Old 03-21-2013, 08:15 PM
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http://www.politico.com/story/2013/0...107.html?hp=t1

Robert Menendez donor courted President Obama, Harry Reid
By KENNETH P. VOGEL and TARINI
3/19/13 9:20 PM EDT

Salomon Melgen had a knack for going straight to the top.

He posed for pictures with President Barack Obama, flew Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his private jet and sought advice on a port security deal from an ex-CIA agent who helped lead the hunt for Osama bin Laden, POLITICO has learned.

Melgen, a wealthy South Florida eye doctor and investor, has seen his flashy forays onto the political stage backfire in spectacular fashion in the past few months. Federal investigators are probing his business dealings. He’s at the center of the controversy over Sen. Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez (D-N.J.) and prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

And now, new details show that Melgen also courted other leading politicians, including two of the top Democrats in Washington.

There is no evidence that either Obama or Reid inappropriately sought to aid Melgen.

Melgen briefly schmoozed Obama at a 2010 fundraiser Melgen co-hosted benefiting the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez chaired at the time. The president posed with his arm around Melgen in a photo obtained exclusively by POLITICO.

“Everybody gets a photo-op, but the host committee just gets a few extra minutes to meet with the president,” said Seema Sharma, who hosted the fundraiser at her family home in the Washington suburbs.

Melgen “shook hands with [Obama] and told him he was from Florida,” Sharma said. It was “just small talk, chitchat. There’s just not enough time to have a detailed discussion or any lengthy conversation.”

But Melgen wasn’t happy with the return on his investment — co-hosting required the maximum $30,400 donation to the DSCC — according to a source who travels in the same Miami political circles.

“He had mentioned to me once that he had given all this money to go to an Obama fundraiser, and Obama didn’t even give him the time of day,” said the source, who didn’t want to be identified revealing the contents of private conversations. “He went up to talk to him, and he felt very slighted by the president. He was pretty angry.”

The White House declined to comment for this report.

Melgen also tried courting the top Senate Democrat: Harry Reid of Nevada.

Melgen flew Reid on his company’s private plane last summer to Boston and back for a Majority PAC event, Reid’s office confirmed to POLITICO.

Majority PAC, a super PAC closely linked to Reid that benefits Senate Democratic candidates, reported reimbursing Melgen’s ophthalmology company $4,160 for “travel” last summer. That filing does not specify who did the traveling, when it occurred or the destination, but Reid’s office said that payment was for Reid’s trip to Boston.

“Sen. Reid took a flight that was in full compliance with FEC rules and fully paid for,” said his spokesman Adam Jentleson.

Flight records show that Melgen’s plane flew from his home airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Sunday afternoon, June 17, then took off at 7:15 the next morning, June 18, en route to Boston. It stayed on the ground less than three hours, before lifting off to return to Reagan, which requires special security clearance for private planes.

Melgen also donated $700,000 last year to Majority PAC, which spent $582,500 supporting Menendez’s 2012 reelection campaign — which Menendez won by 18 percentage points.

Some rich folks looking for special treatment would work through a lobbyist with experience navigating government bureaucracy.
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  #26  
Old 03-27-2013, 09:46 AM
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http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/201...bert-menendez/

Job Approval Numbers Rebound For New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez
March 27, 2013 7:51 AM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Job approval poll numbers are rebounding from a five-year low for U.S. Sen. Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez of New Jersey in the wake of an ethics probe involving a major donor.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows 40 percent of registered New Jersey voters surveyed approve of the job the two-term Democrat is doing compared to 37 percent who do not. A 41 percent negative approval rating reflected a 15-point drop in a February survey.

New Jersey voters are divided 35 to 36 percent, with 29 percent undecided, on whether Menendez is honest and trustworthy.

Fifty-three percent say the issue is worth investigating, while 30 percent say it’s politically motivated.

The telephone survey of 1,129 registered idiots has a sampling error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
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  #27  
Old 06-23-2013, 07:52 AM
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http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/n...pWXg5WlpLflqHI

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez wooed married woman: source
By ISABEL VINCENT and MELISSA KLEIN
Last Updated: 6:05 AM, June 23, 2013
Posted: 3:10 AM, June 23, 2013

Sen. Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez wooed a married newspaper publisher, taking the attractive brunette on a romantic getaway to the Caribbean, a tipster alleges.

The New Jersey Dem and Cecilia Reynolds jetted to Puerto Rico, where they stayed at the isolated beach retreat of the island’s then-governor, Anibal Acevedo Vila.

In a photo provided by the anonymous informant, Reynolds is sitting naked on a beach and suggestively smiling at the camera. In another set of pictures, they take turns posing against the same sunset backdrop.

The happy couple, dressed in shorts, also appeared to tour a national park and pose for a photo at a waterfall, Menendez wrapping his arm around Reynolds’ waist.


PAPER TRAIL:NJ Sen. Robert Menendez in Facebook pic with the publisher of Nosotros, Cecilia Reynolds (above right; and below, at her home last week).




A document with copies of the photos along with details of the alleged tryst were provided to media organizations and the National Legal and Policy Center, a Virginia-based ethics watchdog group.

Reynolds, 50, the mother of two adult children, refused to talk to a reporter Friday as she left her Freehold, NJ, home and approached the Porsche Cayenne SUV in her driveway. She hurried back inside the house and would not come to the door.

“My husband and I were separated for a period of time in the past,” she said in a statement released Friday night. “Any and all allegations being peddled by a former disgruntled business partner are false and malicious.”

Her husband, Matt Reynolds, earlier told a reporter the couple was indeed married in 2007 when the affair allegedly happened. He said he would “neither confirm nor deny” her relationship with Menendez.

The senator’s office released a statement six minutes after Reynolds, saying, “These are the same kind of questionably timed smear tactics that we’ve seen before, and we’re not going to dignify them with a comment.”

Menendez, 59, who was named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this year and has been a leading proponent of immigration reform, has been embroiled in scandal for the past few months. His relationship with a wealthy Florida donor, from whom he accepted free flights on a private plane, is under scrutiny.

It’s unclear how he and Reynolds traveled to Puerto Rico for the alleged rendezvous.

The trip came at a time when the senator was trying to thwart the appointment of Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez as the US attorney for Puerto Rico. He placed a “senatorial hold,” or block, on the appointment, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Rodriguez-Velez was the interim US attorney, and her office had turned its sights on Menendez’s pal, the former Puerto Rico governor, investigating him for alleged campaign-finance violations and other wrongdoing. She was later confirmed despite the senator’s interference, and Acevedo Vila was indicted in 2008 on 19 criminal counts. He was found not guilty.

“Menendez apparently sees no ethics problem with taking his married girlfriend to the Puerto Rican governor’s beach house while the governor was under federal investigation, and published reports describe Menendez as putting a senatorial hold on the nomination of the US attorney who was to oversee the investigation,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. “Is there any wonder the public has such a low opinion of elected officials?”

When Menendez ran for re-election in November 2006, his campaign placed a full-page ad in Nosotros, the free Spanish-language newspaper Reynolds started in 2002.

Menendez, whose parents were Cuban, has been prominently featured on its pages. He posed in a group photo, along with Reynolds, that appeared on the front page after a May 2011 visit to an immigrant center Reynolds helped set up in Freehold.

Menendez even provided a testimonial for the paper, calling it “one of the most substantive newspapers in either English or Spanish that I have read.”

Reynolds, who would not disclose the name of the ex-partner she believes is tipping media to the alleged affair, donated $2,500 to Menendez’s campaign in 2011.
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  #28  
Old 01-24-2014, 11:20 AM
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http://nypost.com/2014/01/24/nj-sena...ling-brothers/

NJ senator under investigation for aiding embezzling brothers
By Joe Tacopino
January 24, 2014 | 4:35am


Sen. Robert Menendez is under investigation for his aid to two brothers that embezzled millions.
Photo: AP


New Jersey Senator Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez is under investigation for his connection to Ecuadorian bankers who allegedly stole millions in their home country and are living as fugitives in the US, according to a new report.

The Democratic senator is under federal criminal investigation for efforts he made to help brothers William and Roberto Isaias stay in Florida after they were sentenced in absentia in Ecuador for embezzling millions from the bank they ran, according to NBC news.

The Isaias brothers moved to the US in 2000 when the Ecuadorian government launched an investigation into their role in the collapse of Filanbanco, which cost the country’s taxpayers millions of dollars.

They now live comfortably in Coral Gables, Florida. The US has refused to extradite the bankers to Ecuador.

The Department of Justice is looking into whether Menendez acted improperly by intervening with Homeland Security and the State Department to help the duo, the report said.

A spokesperson for Menendez disputed the report, and compared it to story from last year that said Menendez had cavorted with an underage prostitute.

“We are not aware of any inquiry into the Senator’s actions on this matter,” Menendez’s spokesman Steven Sandberg said in a statement.

“A year after a false smear campaign was launched against Senator Menendez, once again we see anonymous sources making outlandish allegations,” he said.
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  #29  
Old 02-04-2014, 01:20 PM
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http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/...243025191.html

Senator Pays Back Campaign Donor for $11K Jet Trip
This latest payment comes after the senator paid back $58,000 out of his personal account for two other private jet trips
By Jonathan Dienst | Monday, Feb 3, 2014 | Updated 11:21 AM EST

Sen. Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendez (Reconquista-NJ) has disclosed that his campaign recently recently paid back $11,200 for a free private jet trip he took three years ago from a Florida campaign donor.

This latest payment comes after the senator paid back $58,000 out of his personal account for two other private jet trips he took to the Dominican Republic with that same jew donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.

The senator’s office also announced Friday it was opening a legal defense fund to try to cover the cost of mounting legal bills.

Menendez is facing more than $400,000 in legal defense bills so far, his office said.

Investigators have said the criminal investigation is focusing in part on whether Menendez improperly contacted Medicare officials at a time when Melgen was facing investigation for alleged overbilling of Medicare. Menendez’s spokesman has said the senator only called Medicare officials to suggest they clarify poorly written rules and was unaware of any investigation at that time.

Melgen, whose offices have been searched twice by the FBI, denies any wrongdoing and is suing Medicare in what he says were mistakes by the agency.

NBC 4 New York reported last week the federal criminal investigation into the senator is also focusing in part on his relationship with two fugitive bankers from Ecuador.

The bankers are accused of embezzling over $100 million dollars from their Filanbanco bank, and their relatives donated thousands of dollars to the senator’s 2012 campaign.

In 2012, Menendez wrote letters to U.S. Homeland Security officials on behalf of Ecuador businessmen William and Roberto Isaias in support of their efforts to gain permanent U.S. residence in the Florida.

Federal election records show relatives of the Isaias brothers donated over $10,000 to the senator’s 2012 campaign and over $100,000 to the Democratic Party.

The Senator said he never acts based on campaign donations. And he said he agrees with the Isaias brothers, who say they have been unfairly persecuted by the current government in Ecuador.
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  #30  
Old 04-09-2014, 06:18 PM
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http://www.vdare.com/posts/top-medic...c-is-dominican

Top Medicare Ripoff Doc Is Dominican
By Brenda Walker on April 9, 2014 at 5:41pm

The big headline story on the New York Times Wednesday was "Sliver of Medicare Doctors Get Big Share of Payouts", politely suggesting fraud. Lawyers and police are investigating how it happens that around “two percent of doctors account for about $15 billion in Medicare payments, roughly a quarter of the total.”

Ripoffs aren’t definite of course, but one doctor “earned” $21 million in 2012 alone, which is a lot of prescriptions for a guy whose first language isn’t even English. (That number beats the Lebanese doctor in Michigan who mooched $35 million from the Medicare bureaucracy over two years, as he dangerously misdiagnosed patients to get more expensive treatment.)

The winner of the current Medicare sweepstakes is Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. The loser is the American taxpayer, doubly so when a healthcare recipient.

Quote:
Doctor With Big Medicare Payments Is No Stranger to Scrutiny, New York Times, April 9, 2014

MIAMI — The doctor who was paid the most by Medicare is a South Florida ophthalmologist Robert "Pumpkinhead" Menendezwhose offices were twice raided last year by the F.B.I. and whose generous political contributions and cozy relationship with a New Jersey senator,, are under investigation by federal public corruption prosecutors, a New York Times analysis of Medicare data shows.

Data released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, 59, who moved to Florida from the Dominican Republic in the late 1970s, received $21 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012 alone. The doctor billed mostly for Lucentis, a medication used to treat macular degeneration made by a company that pays generous rebates to its doctors.

The release of the Medicare figures was the latest in a series headline-grabbing disclosures that have dogged the doctor since January of last year. The millionaire surgeon, who lives in a 5,000-square-foot home in North Palm Beach and travels by private jet, is better known as the generous campaign contributor whose close relationship with Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, has been scrutinized by federal prosecutors.

He is a central figure in two different federal investigations. In January and October last year, F.B.I. agents were spotted carrying boxes out of his offices.

Dr. Melgen’s lawyer warned against presuming that the doctor’s high bills to Medicare meant he was engaged in fraud. In a statement released late Tuesday, his lawyer said the large reimbursements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, were easily explained: The doctor has a big practice.

Dr. Melgen has 30 employees working for his company, Vitreo Retinal Consultants, in four different Florida offices.

“At all times, Dr. Melgen billed in conformity with Medicare rules,” the doctor’s lawyer, Kirk Ogrosky, a former Medicare fraud prosecutor, said in a statement. “While the amounts in the CMS data release appear large, the vast majority reflect the cost of drugs. The facts are that doctors receive 6 percent above what they pay for drugs, the amount billed by physicians is set by law, and drug companies set the price of drugs, not doctors.”

According to the records, Dr. Melgen gave 37,000 units of Lucentis, also known as Ranbizumab, to 645 different patients. Over all, he had 894 patients who underwent 92,000 procedures.

The F.B.I. started an investigation of Dr. Melgen last year, because he was accused of overbilling by “multi-dosing” a vial of medication that was supposed to be used for a single patient, but could be spread out among several. Under federal rules, the doctor was supposed to have thrown out the extra medication.

The doctor defended the practice, saying that federal law required a separate bill for each dose.

Dr. Melgen was forced to pay back $9 million he was suspected of overbilling. When faced with the federal investigation, he fought back by filing a federal lawsuit against the secretary of Health and Human Services to recover the money. The 2013 lawsuit, which noted that 70 percent of Dr. Melgen’s clients are Medicare patients, alleged that the government retaliated for the civil action by suspending the doctor’s Medicare payments.

Dr. Melgen catapulted from obscurity to notoriety last year, when questions were raised about his close relationship with Mr. Menendez, who had received free rides on the doctor’s private jet and stayed at the doctor’s home in a luxury resort complex in the Dominican Republic.

The senator eventually was forced to pay back the cost of the travel.

Dr. Melgen donated more than $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super PAC run by former aides to the Senate majority leader Harry Reid, which then spent $600,000 to re-elect Mr. Menendez. Mr. Menendez also publicly and privately helped his friend with business disputes. The senator made calls on Mr. Melgen’s behalf to the Department of Health and Human Services in the dispute over the injection dosing and advocated on behalf of the doctor during a Senate hearing into a port security contract in the Dominican Republic.

The hearing involved a port security company that Dr. Melgen had purchased in his native country in the hopes that the Dominican Republic would start screening every container on every outbound vessel. The Customs agency there refused to honor the contract, and Senator Menendez urged American officials to get involved.

Without mentioning his friend, the senator urged federal agencies not to donate equipment that would have competed with the doctor’s business plans.

Dr. Melgen has said the senator is “like a brother” to him, and said he never sought anything in return for the money he donated.

A spokesman for Senator Menendez declined to comment on the federal data about Dr. Melgen’s Medicare billings.

Dr. Melgen and his family in the Dominican Republic, who are powerful members of the political establishment there, are quick to remind people that the doctor did not make his fortune through medical billing.

For instance, he was an early investor in Seisint Inc., a service that created a data analyzing program, which he said helped federal agencies investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The company was sold to LexisNexis for $775 million, providing a financial windfall for the doctor.

He has lost his share of money, too. According to lawsuits he filed, he was once swindled for $5 million in a Ponzi scheme and lost another $1 million to a former girlfriend who used his money to start a boutique. Two other federal lawsuits he and his wife filed blamed “false and misleading disclosures” for losses of more than $40 million from Citigroup and Bank of America.

The doctor and his wife also filed a suit over a nearly $6 million loss in an online gaming venture.

Dr. Melgen was the co-founder of Voxxi, a Hispanic-oriented news site, which has published laudatory articles about the doctor and the Senator.

His lawyer said Dr. Melgen has patients who travel from around the world to see him, and cautioned against analyzing raw Medicare data in a negative light.

“Dr. Melgen stands by his record of improving the vision and quality of life of patients from around the world,” Mr. Ogrosky wrote in the statement. “Dr. Melgen strongly supports transparency in government, but engaging in speculation based on raw data is irresponsible. Dr. Melgen and his employees provide a substantial amount of free services and drugs to patients who cannot afford to pay. The data is merely a reflection of Medicare’s spending for pharmaceuticals that are improving the lives of countless Medicare patients.”
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