Although much of the federal government's case against Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey is based on allegations involving his friend Dr. Salomon Melgen's $8.9 million in Medicare billing and a container screening deal at Dominican ports, there is also a part of the indictment that focuses on the New Jersey senator's alleged intercession in the visa process on behalf of his friends foreign girlfriends.
The indictment describes the women as "Melgen's Girlfriend from Brazil," "Melgen's Girlfriend from the Dominican Republic, and her sister," and "Melgen's girlfriend from Ukraine."
In the official document, investigators charge that Menendez "used his position as a United States Senator to influence the visa proceedings of Melgen's foreign girlfriends." Menendez reportedly pressured a U.S. ambassador over two visas and also involved his Senate office staff in corresponding with the State Department.
A Brazilian woman, identified as "Girlfriend 1" in the indictment, was a model and lawyer who, upon the eye doctor's suggestion in 2007, applied for a master's program at the University of Miami. Attendance would require a student visa, and Melgen allegedly contacted Menendez about his girlfriend's visa application.
In July of 2008, a Menendez staffer emailed a State Department official, saying "The Senator asked me to get in touch with you about the following visa applicant" and including Girlfriend 1's personal information.
"Sen. Menendez would like to advocate unconditionally for Dr. Melgen and encourage careful consideration of [Girlfriend 1]'s visa application," the email read. "I understand she is an attorney in Brazil and is coming to the U.S. on a student visa with support from Dr. Solomon [sic] Melgen."
Before his girlfriend's visa interview, the ophthalmologist had reportedly introduced Girlfriend 1 to Menendez, and the senator had met with the couple numerous times in Florida, Spain, the Dominican Republic, New Jersey, and New York.
Melgen's second girlfriend -- also a model -- from the Dominican Republic intended to visit the doctor with her sister on tourist visas in 2008. After a request from Melgen, Menendez staffers drafted a letter supporting Girlfriend 2's and her sister's visa applications.
The indictment also includes a letter from Girlfriend 2 to Melgen. The original note was translated into English in the indictment. It reads:
"Hello my love [Melgen],
I write to remind you that you need to send me a copy of what Senator Bob Menendez's office sent you, which I need for the embassy.
And also remember the bank thing please.
Thank you. A kiss.
Soon after their embassy interview, the model and her sister were denied a visa. When a staffer informed Menendez of the development, the New Jersey senator instructed his staff to "Call Ambassador asap."
The visa applicants were subsequently called back for a second interview and approved.
Melgen's "Girlfriend 3," a Ukranian model and actress, was living in Spain in 2007, when Melgen once again turned to Sen. Menendez for visa help. Menendez drafted letter to the Consul General in Madrid.
"[I]f there is anything my office or Dr. Melgen can do to assist you in making a prompt and fair decision to grant [Girlfriend 3] a visa petition, please inform my office at your earliest convenience," the letter said, mentioning that the Ukrainian model would also "undergo medical evaluation for plastic surgery" in addition to visiting with the eye doctor.
Girlfriend 3 was eventually granted a visa, and met with Melgen and Menendez while touring Miami, Florida.
Melgen's lavish gifts to Menendez also included the use of a private Caribbean villa in the Dominican Republic, golf trips, free flights on private jets and an expensive hotel stay in Paris, in addition to generous political donations. The value totaled at least $1 million, according to the indictment.