Embattled New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez visited the swanky Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic during a weekend in August 2006 and stayed at he home of Dr. Salomon Melgen, according to an interview he gave with the Dominican daily newspaper Listin Diario.
Menendez’ relationship with the doctor has become the stuff of scandal, encompassing the senator’s intervention on Melgen’s behalf with Medicare authorities, his work securing large donations from Melgen for Democratic candidates, his use of Melgen’s private jet for his Dominican getaways, and his alleged trysts with underage prostitutes in the island nation. (RELATED SLIDESHOW: Meet one of Bob Menendez’s alleged call girls)
“Menendez was interviewed over the weekend at the home of Dr. Salomon Melgen at Casa de Campo,” the newspaper reported Aug. 22, 2006.
The article included a photo of Menendez, with the caption: “Bob Menéndez, the senator from New Jersey, gave an interview to Listin Diario at the residence of the Dominican doctor Salomón Melgen, at Casa de Campo, La Romana.”
To date, Menendez has only acknowledged visiting Melgen’s home at the Casa de Campo resort on three occasions, all in 2010. He paid Melgen $58,500 in January 2013 as reimbursement for two of those trips. (RELATED: Menendez admits frequent Dominican travel, reimburses FBI-raided donor $58,500 for private jet flights)
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee paid for the other, which was part of a fundraising swing, shortly after it occurred.
But Menendez’s presence over an August 2006 weekend at Melgen’s resort home will raise the question of how he got to the Dominican Republic.
Menendez’s spokeswoman, Tricia Enright, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment about whether he flew commercial or rode on a plane owned by Melgen.
Melgen acquired his current aircraft in 2009, but the Star-Ledger in New Jersey reported Feb. 7 that court records showed the longtime Democratic donor faced “[l]iens for nonpayment of maintenance work … on another aircraft he once owned.”
The Associated Press reported on the 2006 Listin Diario interview, noting the location and rendering some of Menendez’s statements into English.
“The reality is that the vacuum the United States has created in its relations with Latin America has been filled by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela,” Menendez said, according to the AP’s translation.
“If we don’t focus ourselves on Latin America, we will pay the consequences, and in a certain sense we have already started to pay that bill.”
Congress should create a Latin American development fund, Menendez told Listin Diario, focusing in part on finding alternative crops for coca farmers in the region. Coca plants are used to produce cocaine.