WASHINGTON — U.S. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was indicted on corruption charges, allegations that the high-ranking lawmaker said he would address at a news conference on Wednesday night.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that Menendez, 61, was indicted in New Jersey along with his friend and Democratic Party donor, Salomon Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist.
One of the highest profile Hispanic politicians in the country and a strong voice in U.S. foreign relations, Menendez is accused of accepting gifts from Melgen, 61, in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to benefit Melgen’s financial and personal interests, the Justice Department said.
The two men were charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the travel act, eight counts of bribery and three counts of honest services fraud, the Justice Department said, correcting an earlier statement citing seven bribery counts.
Menendez was also charged with one count of making false statements.
Between January 2006 and January 2013, the department said, citing allegations in the indictment, “Menendez accepted close to $1 million worth of lavish gifts and campaign contributions from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to influence the outcome of ongoing contractual and Medicare billing disputes worth tens of millions of dollars to Melgen and to support the visa applications of several of Melgen’s girlfriends.”
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has denied any wrongdoing. His office said in a statement that he will speak at a news conference in Newark, New Jersey at 7 p.m..
Political science professor Matthew Hale at Seton Hall University in New Jersey said, “It is important to remember that Senator Menendez grew up in the rough and tumble rink of North Jersey politics … He knows how to fight and I suspect he will fight these charges.”
For some time, federal authorities have been investigating Menendez’s relationship with Melgen, who has been accused of overbilling the government’s Medicare program.
Menendez, who is Cuban-American, was re-elected to a second term in the Senate in 2012. He spent 13 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“As we have said before, we believe all of the senator’s actions have been appropriate and lawful, and the facts will ultimately confirm that,” Tricia Enright, Menendez’s communications director, said on March 6, responding to early reports that federal prosecutors were close to bringing charges.