Top US senator Bob Menendez denies sex tourism claim as FBI raids donor's offices

Melgen and his family are longtime contributors to numerous political campaigns, including Menendez's, totaling $393,000 since 1998.

He has an outstanding lien of $11.1 million from the Internal Revenue Service for taxes owed between 2006 and 2009, according to records obtained from the Palm Beach County recorder's office.

Melgen fell victim to a Ponzi scheme in 2004 in which he lost $15 million, according to court documents.

In a letter to the Department of Justice in July last year, Washington-based political watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested that the FBI investigate "whether Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) engaged in sex tourism by engaging in illicit sexual acts with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic."

The letter, which was provided to Reuters by CREW, also asked the FBI to investigate if Menendez "solicited the services of a prostitute in Florida" and whether he violated the Mann Act banning the interstate trafficking of women for prostitution.

CREW's director said the watchdog group began looking into the Melgen-Menendez connection after receiving email messages last year from a man calling himself Peter Williams, who claimed to have information that Menendez had been traveling to the Dominican Republic with Melgen, using Melgen's private jet and staying at Melgen's Dominican homes in La Romana and the capital, Santo Domingo.

CREW's director Melanie Sloan said Williams refused to meet with or speak to CREW and she grew increasingly "skeptical" about the source, fearing that it might be a smear campaign by political enemies of Menendez.

"We don't know who Williams is, or even if that's his real name. So we decided to forward all the emails to the FBI."

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