Prominent U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is denying allegations that he hired prostitutes.
CBS News reports the senator is being forced to deny allegations of accepting free plane rides and engaging with prostitutes as the FBI scrutinizes one of his friends who made big donations to his campaigns.
In fact, federal agents hauled away boxes of documents from the office of a South Florida eye doctor, a prominent Democratic donor with ties to the New Jersey senator, on Wednesday.
While the FBI is refusing to say why they're investigating Dr. Salomon Melgen, CBS News has confirmed the agents were joined by inspectors with the Department of Health and Human Services, which investigates health care fraud.
The relationship between Melgen, who currently has an outstanding IRS lien of $11.1 million for back taxes, and Menendez has become the focus.
Last November, an article on the website The Daily Caller accused Menendez "…of accepting prostitutes at Melgen's mansion in the Dominican Republic-and using the Florida Doctor's private jet for transportation."
At the time, a spokeswoman for Menendez said he was "not going to respond to a completely false accusation... and Menendez easily won re-election to a second Senate term.
With Melgen under federal scrutiny and Menendez assuming a more prominent role on Capitol Hill as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, the Senator was much more forceful.
In a statement, Menendez called Melgen "a friend and political supporter…for many years." And he acknowledged he traveled on Melgen's plane "three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately."
However, his denial of wrongdoing was categorical: "any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically-motivated right-wing blog and are false."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed the sentiment in defending Menendez:
"I always consider the source and all anyone here has to look at is the source where this comes from," Reid said in a statement.
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