An indictment against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) accuses the New Jersey Democrat of using his influence in the federal government to pressure the state department into issuing visas for a donor's foreign girlfriends, in exchange for more than a million dollars in campaign contributions.
According to the charging documents, unsealed and obtained by the New York Post, Menendez is facing eight counts of bribery — with each count carrying a possible 15-year federal prison sentence. And he did it all for a bevvy of hot chicks (allegedly, anyway).
The indictment lays out the relationship between Menendez and Miami eye doctor Dr. Salomon Melgen, and how the two apparently conspired to bring three of Melgen's model girlfriends to the United States, using Menendez's pull with the State Department. According to the Post, Menendez went to bat for three of Melgen's beauties: an adult model-turned-lawyer from Brazil, a Ukranian actress living in Spain, and a 22-year-old woman from the Dominican Republic.
In each case, Melgen contacted Menendez's office complaining that one of his many lovely ladies had run into an "immigration problem" and required the senator's help to move the process along. In the case of the Brazilian model, Menedez had a senior staffer write to the State Department urging them to approve her visa application. Around the same time, Menendez also advocated for the Ukranian actress, allegedly telling the State Department that she was a friend and that she intended to visit Miami (where Melgen lived) for a "plastic surgery evaluation."
Again, the woman in question was quickly approved for travel.
In the third scenario, Menendez reportedly intervened when the Dominican woman's visa petition was denied. An embassy interview with the woman and her sister went badly (the State Department wasn't convinced the sisters would ever leave the United States), and Melgen complained to Menendez's office, which pressed on State, eventually winning a visa for both women.
Menendez also stands accused of helping Melgen "take care of" a problem Melgen had with Medicare fraud investigators who started poking around the doctor's businesses after a billing conflict (in addition to the bribery, Melgen is also charged with Medicare fraud).
In return for his — and at least six of his staffers' — trouble, Menendez was, according to the indictment, generously rewarded. Melgen became one of Menendez's biggest donors, eventually contributing more than a million dollars to the cause of keeping the New Jersey Democrat in office.
The case against Menendez officially goes to trial next week; no doubt a lot of interested parties in Washington will be watching — and not just because of the mostly naked models involved.