WASHINGTON — Sen. Robert Menendez's office said Wednesday night that he reimbursed a prominent Florida political donor $58,500 for the full cost of two of three trips on the donor's plane to the Dominican Republic in 2010. At the same time, Menendez's office said unsubstantiated allegations that he engaged in sex with prostitutes there are false.
The FBI searched the West Palm Beach office of the donor, eye doctor Salomon Melgen, on Tuesday night and early Wednesday, but it was unclear whether the raid was related to Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat.
Records filed in Palm Beach County show an Internal Revenue Service lien against Melgen of more than $11.1 million for unpaid taxes from 2006 through 2009. Prior liens for taxes from 1998 to 2002 were subsequently withdrawn, records show.
The Daily Caller, a conservative website, reported shortly before the November election that Menendez had traveled on Melgen's private plane to the Dominican Republic to have sex with prostitutes.
Menendez's office said any accusations of engaging in sex with prostitutes "are manufactured by a politically motivated right-wing blog and are false."
The office said Menendez reimbursed Melgen $58,500 from his personal account for the full cost of two of three trips to the Dominican Republic, in August and September 2010, so there were no reporting requirements.
A third trip — a campaign fundraising trip to the donor's residence in the Dominican Republic — took place in May 2010. That trip was reported to the Federal Election Commission, his office said.
At FBI headquarters in Washington, spokesman Jason Pack said the bureau "cannot comment on the existence or status of an investigation." Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler also declined to comment.
On Tuesday, Menendez became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, succeeding Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.