NEWARK – Sen. Bob Menendez had the use of a chauffeured SUV for a night out in 2008 thanks to his friend and now co-defendant Dr. Salomon Melgen, testimony in the senator’s corruption trial showed.
Melgen paid a luxury car service $875 to drive the Democratic senator, a never before revealed expense that was not included in the indictment against the two men. The service sent a chauffer-driven SUV to pick up Menendez in Hoboken around 7:30 pm on Oct. 4, 2008 and the senator had use of the vehicle for the next eight hours, according to records introduced into evidence.
Neither the records nor the car service general manager who testified at the trial this afternoon indicated where Menendez went. But defense attorneys pointed to the next charge on Melgen’s American Express card – an $857 dinner at the upscale Manhattan restaurant Mr. Chow – to suggest where the duo could have gone.
It’s unclear why prosecutors introduced the car service charge into evidence, since it’s not among the private jet flights, Paris hotel room or campaign contributions Menendez is accused of accepting from Melgen as bribes in exchange for doing his bidding.
Menendez had no comment as he left court this afternoon following a brief meeting with his lawyers.
The testimony about the car service capped a day where the jury got a virtual Dominican vacation thanks to the testimony of not one, but two caretakers of separate resorts on the Carribbean island.
Menendez’s attorney Abbe Lowell made multiple exasperated objections to seemingly endless descriptions of villas and condos, but was frequently overruled by Judge William Walls. In addition to trips to the Casa de Campo resort where Melgen owned a villa, Menendez, Melgen and Melgen’s wife spent four days in Punta Cana for a wedding in 2010.
Alberto Abreu, the VP of Hospitality for the Tortuga Bay hotel in Punta Cana, testified about the hotel’s five diamond rating and how the place is “one of the leading hotels of the world.”
The Melgens shared a two bedroom suite with Menendez when the group attended the wedding of a hotel executive’s son with about 1,000 other people. Abreu said.
Lowell, a top-flight white collar attorney who rarely talks outside the courtroom, was unable to stifle a smile when a reporter jokingly asked if he enjoyed the government’s commercial for Casa de Campo, the resort where Melgen had a home.
“You made me laugh,” Lowell said as he kept walking.
The trial continues tomorrow.
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