Report: Menendez probe comes up short

Feb. 4, 2013 at 12:27 PM
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MIAMI, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- A tip involving U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic has led to a dead end, The Miami Herald reported.

A week after the tip exploded in the media, the alleged prostitutes have disappeared, the Herald said. An attorney who used to represent two of the women allegedly involved said he hadn't spoken to them in months before he stopped phone calls himself. An apartment in Santo Domingo where some of the alleged assignations took place is vacant.

Nothing concrete has tied Menendez and any prostitutes, the Herald first reported Saturday but the allegations were serious enough to initiate an FBI investigation and there is evidence that, at the very least, the women the tipster described exist.

In April emails to a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the tipster, calling himself Peter Williams, alleged Dr. Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye surgeon, friend and major campaign donor to Menendez, rented a unit for a Brazilian prostitute named Maria and a Colombian prostitute named Geraldine.

The Herald said a call to the apartment building's landlady confirmed two women with those names and from those countries lived there, but they were exchange students who abandoned the apartment. The landlady also had never heard of Menendez or Melgen visiting the apartment.

Prostitution is not illegal in the Dominican Republic.

The FBI investigation also is looking into trips Menendez took on Melgen's private plane, and the senator's gift disclosures. Last week, Menendez acknowledged that he went to the Dominican Republic with Melgen three times and wrote a check for more than $58,000 to reimburse him for two flights.

Separately, the agency is investigating Melgen for possible Medicare fraud. Last week, FBI agents raided Melgen's eye clinic in West Palm Beach.

The emails Williams sent to authorities have been greeted with some doubt, in part because he has been unwilling to meet with investigators or talk over the phone, the Herald said.

Both Menendez and Melgen have denied wrongdoing.

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