Is Menendez funder involved in human trafficking?
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness month. A few weeks ago, a bi-partisan group of legislators stood on the steps of the State House and declared their strong opposition to this serious crime. In the run-up to New Jersey hosting the Super Bowl, when law enforcement experts predict a rise in human trafficking to feed the sex industry, these legislators have proposed ways to combat human trafficking.
Listen to Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, and Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. speak on this issue:
At the same time, the United States Senator from New Jersey has been under scrutiny for his involvement with a prominent Democratic Party campaign fundraiser who appears to have links to the trafficking of underage women for sex. The Miami Herald reported today:
FBI agents late Tuesday night raided the West Palm Beach business of an eye doctor suspected of providing free trips and even underage Dominican Republic prostitutes to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. - who has denied what he calls the “fallacious allegations.”
Agents gathered at the medical-office complex of Dr. Salomon Melgen, a contributor to Menendez and other prominent politicians, to start hauling away potential evidence in several vans.
The investigation is believed to be focusing on Melgen’s finances and the allegations about Menendez’s trips and contact with prostitutes. A spokesman for Menendez could not be reached for comment, nor could Melgen.
Melgen has an outstanding IRS lien of $11.1 million for taxes owed from 2006 to 2009, according to records filed with the Palm Beach County recorder’s office. A previous IRS lien for $6.2 million was released in 2011.
Despite those financial problems, Melgen and his family have contributed at least $357,000 to candidates and committees since 1998, according to Florida and federal campaign records. Of that, the Melgens have contributed about 9 percent to Menendez’s federal campaigns.
Melgen also owns a private CL-600 Challenger plane through one of his West Palm Beach-based companies, and frequently flies between South Florida and Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic, where he is from.
Menendez has flown on the plane at least once, his office has said, when he was chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 2009 to 2011, when the Melgens contributed about $60,400 to the group. A spokeswoman had previously said that Menendez and Melgen are longtime friends and said the senator did nothing improper.
Melgen was first linked to Menendez just before the November elections, when the conservative Daily Caller website interviewed two alleged prostitutes who said they had relations with the New Jersey Democrat at Melgen’s Dominican Republic mansion in Casa de Campo.
After the election, the news died down.
But then, days before Menendez was about to start leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as chairman, reporters started receiving a 58-page dossier of emails between a Miami FBI agent and a tipster who claimed that some of the prostitutes had been underage.
Will Senator Barbara Buono make a statement about this? Will she urge her fellow Democrat, Bob Menendez, to cooperate fully? And what active steps will she take to see to it that the young women involved are delivered from the slavery of the sex industry.
The legislation and its sponsors:
A3352 The “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act.”
Vainieri Huttle, Valerie as Primary Sponsor
McHose, Alison Littell as Primary Sponsor
Barnes, Peter J., III as Primary Sponsor
Tucker, Cleopatra G. as Primary Sponsor
Fuentes, Angel as Primary Sponsor
Stender, Linda as Primary Sponsor
Sumter, Shavonda E. as Primary Sponsor
Dancer, Ronald S. as Primary Sponsor
Munoz, Nancy F. as Primary Sponsor
Wagner, Connie as Co-Sponsor
Caputo, Ralph R. as Co-Sponsor
McKeon, John F. as Co-Sponsor
Quijano, Annette as Co-Sponsor
Gusciora, Reed as Co-Sponsor
Riley, Celeste M. as Co-Sponsor
Jasey, Mila M. as Co-Sponsor
Chivukula, Upendra J. as Co-Sponsor
Giblin, Thomas P. as Co-Sponsor
S2239 The “Human Trafficking Prevention, Protection, and Treatment Act.”
Pou, Nellie as Primary Sponsor
Vitale, Joseph F. as Primary Sponsor
Gill, Nia H., Esq. as Primary Sponsor
Kean, Thomas H., Jr. as Co-Sponsor
Ruiz, M. Teresa as Co-Sponsor
Buono, Barbara as Co-Sponsor
Stack, Brian P. as Co-Sponsor
Beck, Jennifer as Co-Sponsor
Cardinale, Gerald as Co-Sponsor
Cunningham, Sandra B. as Co-Sponsor
Greenstein, Linda R. as Co-Sponsor
Allen, Diane B. as Co-Sponsor
You can follow Rob Eichmann on Twitter:Follow @RobEichmannNJ