News Column

FBI Raids Office of Doctor Accused of Providing Plane Rides, Prostitutes to Politician

Jan. 31, 2013

George Bennett and Sonja Isger

FBI agents raided the West Palm Beach business of an eye doctor who a conservative website accused of providing free trips and prostitutes to a U.S. senator.

The office of Dr. Salomon Melgen, who runs the Vitreo-Retinal Consultants Eye Center, at 2521 Metrocentre Blvd., near 45th Street and Village Boulevard in West Palm Beach, was raided late Tuesday night and early this morning.

At 2:20 p.m. agents from the FBI and Office of Inspector General toted out more than 63 cardboard boxes. They loaded the boxes into a large white van and a white sedan.

Minutes later, more boxes left the building with agents out a side door.

It's unclear what agents were looking for, but the investigation is believed to be about either Melgen's finances and/or allegations that he provided trips, and even underage Dominican prostitutes, to a U.S. senator.

The senator who is alleged to have had contact with the prostitutes, Bob Menendez, D-N.J., denied what he called the "fallacious allegations," according to the Miami Herald.

Melgen has an $11.1 million lien with the IRS for taxes owed from 2006 to 2009, according to documents. A previous IRS lien for $6.2 million was released in 2011.

Melgen, who lives at Captain's Landing near North Palm Beach, also has offices in Wellington, Port St. Lucie and the Delray Beach area. The Herald reported that his offices in Port St. Lucie and Delray Beach also were raided Wednesday.

He could not immediately reached for comment.

Michael Leverock, a special agent from the FBI's Miami office, stood outside the office this afternoon and would only say "we are conducting law enforcement action at this location." He declined to comment further.

Workers with drills and a crowbar, and a locksmith were seen entering the building.

Melgen, who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, also is chairman and founder of Voxxi, an online news an online news site catering to Hispanics in the United States.

Despite Melgen's financial problems, he and his family have contributed at least $357,000 to candidates and committees since 1998, according to Florida and federal campaign records. Of that, the Melgens have contributed about 9 percent to Menendez's federal campaigns.

Melgen is a contributor to Menendez and other prominent politicians, including Sen. Bill Nelson and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Garcia, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart. According to campaign contribution documents, Melgen has also contributed to Tim Mahoney, Ron Klein, Robert Wexler, Mark Foley, Alcee Hastings and Carol Roberts.

He also owns a private CL-600 Challenger plane through one of his West Palm Beach-based companies, and frequently flies between South Florida and Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, where he is from, the Herald reported.

Melgen was first linked to Menendez just before the November elections, when the conservative Daily Caller website interviewed two alleged prostitutes who said they had relations with the New Jersey Democrat at Melgen's Dominican Republic mansion in Casa de Campo, the Herald reported.

After the election, the news died down.

According to the Herald, Menendez's office responded to the allegations by saying: "Dr. Melgen has been a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years. Senator Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen's plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately. Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false."

The Associated Press searched six years of office and travel-related expenses for Menendez's U.S. Senate office and found no reports reflecting payments to Melgen or trips aboard Melgen's plane. The AP also found no apparent reimbursement to Melgen in more than six years' worth of campaign expenses on file with the Federal Election Commission.

Source: (c)2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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