Menendez donor says they're 'like brothers'

Posted: April 04, 2013

Salomon Melgen, the Florida political donor at the center of a criminal probe, said that he and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) were "like brothers" who spoke weekly, that his companies have never benefited, that he broke no laws.

"I don't have any business interests at all that have been helped by any politicians," Melgen, an ophthalmologist, said at his office in Port St. Lucie on Florida's east coast.

Melgen, 58, spoke in his first interview since a scandal erupted over his relationship with Menendez, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A grand jury is examining whether Menendez improperly helped Melgen in his business dealings. The senator, according to the Washington Post, intervened in a Medicare-billing dispute and urged the U.S. government to press the Dominican Republic to enforce a contract with a Melgen company to provide port-security services.

Melgen acknowledged that he discussed with Menendez his problems with Medicare regulations and the port contract. He said he wanted to restore his reputation, adding that headlines from dozens of news accounts have tarnished him.

"They took away my dignity," Melgen said in the March 21 interview. "They portrayed me as a greedy guy who was with politicians for the quid pro quo."

Prosecutors typically use grand juries to determine whether there's probable cause to believe a crime was committed. Juries decide whether to return indictments or take no action.

Melgen said the worst part of the investigation has been the impact on his patients. "This is my passion. I love my patients," he said. "They get to love me, and I love them."

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