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(Bloomberg) -- Jurors at the bribery trial of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez got to see photographs of the luxurious resorts he enjoyed in the Dominican Republic with his co-defendant, a political donor and close friend who hosted him.
Prosecutors displayed pictures on Monday of Casa de Campo, which boasts the Caribbean’s best golf course, called Teeth of the Dog, a marina filled with luxury yachts and restaurants offering everything from Italian cuisine to sushi, according to testimony.
The U.S. charges that the trips were among bribes that Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, took in exchange for official actions to help his friend, Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, try to resolve issues with the government. Both men deny wrongdoing.
In opening remarks in federal court in Newark, defense attorneys portrayed the men as close personal friends who shared gifts freely and spent holidays with their families at Melgen’s home in Casa de Campo.
But prosecutors, in questioning a resort executive, used photographs to display the opulence of the place. In the section of Casa de Campo where Melgen lived, houses sold for $1.1 million to $2.5 million, the executive testified.
Another hotel executive told jurors that Menendez stayed at the Tortuga Bay Resort in Punta Cana, which the American Automobile Association rates as the only five-diamond hotel in the Dominican Republic. Menendez’s stay was complimentary, the executive said. But it wasn’t clear from the testimony if Melgen covered the entire amount, or if someone else helped pay for it.
In his opening statement, Melgen attorney Kirk Ogrosky described the doctor’s home more modestly.
“Even though the doctor had a cleaning lady and a woman who did the cooking at the house, the Senator would make his own bed, iron his own clothes, give money to the people that cooked to buy food,” he said.
Prosecutors claim that Menendez took hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Melgen, as well as private jet flights and resort vacations in Paris and the Dominican Republic. In exchange, prosecutors said, Menendez tried to help three girlfriends of Melgen get visas, enforce a shipping container contract in the Dominican Republic, and fight a U.S. agency that said he overbilled Medicare by $8.9 million.
The case is U.S. v. Menendez, 15-cr-00155, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).
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