FBI raids office of South Florida eye doctor

Q: And what does this have to do with New Jersey?

A: We don't know yet. And maybe nothing.

Miami Herald is reporting today on an FBI raid last night at the West Palm Beach offices of eye doctor Dr. Salomon Melgen. Materials were seized last night and carted away in vans.

The Herald suggests the raid may be connected to allegations concerning Sen. Bob Menendez. This afternoon, Menendez released this statement:

"Dr. Melgen has been a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years. Senator Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen's plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately. Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false."

Melgen, originally from the Dominican Republic, is a contributor to Sen. Menendez and other politicians, and gave about $60k to the DSCC when Menendez was its Chair.

Melgen owes the federal government a lot of money; an outstanding IRS lien of $11.1 million for taxes owed from 2006 to 2009, with a previous $6.2M IRS lien released in 2011.

It isn't known whether Melgen's complex financial issues are the focus of the FBI's investigation and raid on his offices, or what kind of records are now in the FBI's hands.  And here it gets more complicated. It is not known if Senator Menendez is also a target of the FBI, or if any records seized even have anything to do with him. Miami Herald is suggesting that they may.

But the original source of the accusations is a partisan website, and a tipster who engaged with the Miami FBI office purporting to offer detail is behaving in a way that raises red flags.  

Allegations have been made over the last three months that Menendez solicited prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, while at the home of Dr. Melgen, who owns an estate there. But the source of these allegations is The Daily Caller, the partisan website founded by Tucker Carlson. Carlson is not above fabrication, and the women accusing Menendez in a video posted at The Daily Caller offer zero proof. Nor is any detail provided, like the women's names (their faces are blurred), that would allow reputable source-checking. And a tipster who alleges (in a microsite on line) that some of the prostitutes were underage has proven increasingly evasive, avoiding talking with a Miami-based FBI agent both by phone or in a requested face-to-face meeting as that agent attempts the simple process of due diligence.

All of this comes as Senator Menendez steps into the spotlight as incoming chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, takes a key role in immigration policy reform and shepherds the $50B in federal aid just authorized to rebuild NJ after Hurricane Sandy. Developments that displease many partisans on the right.

Easy to see why Menendez might be the target of a well-financed smear campaign, nevertheless requiring the FBI to fact-find. Easy to suspect that is exactly what may be going on.  

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