Melgen could not be reached at his home, office or on cell phones or by email Wednesday.
The senator’s office issued a statement regarding Melgen’s relationship with Menendez:
“Dr. Melgen has been a friend and political supporter of Sen. Menendez for many years,’’ the statement read.
“Sen. Menendez has traveled on Dr. Melgen’s plane on three occasions, all of which have been paid for and reported appropriately. Any allegations of engaging with prostitutes are manufactured by a politically motivated, right-wing blog and are false.’’
Menendez, who was first accused of improprieties in the conservative Daily Caller website in November, has denied what he calls the “fallacious allegations.’’ He has not yet directly addressed his relationship with Melgen.
Interviews with Melgen’s former employees and acquaintances paint a picture of an exceedingly generous man who struggled to adapt as an immigrant and succeeded wildly in his medical career and in various business ventures, including founding a Hispanic-themed digital media outlet, VOXXI.com, which is based in Coral Gables.
He donated $15,000 at a recent fundraiser for experimental research into a rare muscular-degenerative disease that afflicts the 2-year-old son of Art Estopinan, the chief of staff of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican of Miami.
“He is an angel. I consider him to be an angel,’’ said Estopinan, his voice breaking into sobs. “This is the only hope my son has.’’
Goodman said Melgen “has got a really big heart for people. We used to see thousands of people that had no insurance, just write it off. He did that. He would never turn anybody away if they didn’t have the money.’’
A woman who holds a high-level position at the Dominican Healthcare Association of Florida, which gave Melgen its lifetime honorary member award in April 2012, said she was surprised about the allegations.
“I was shocked,” she said, adding that she always regarded Melgen as a professional totally devoted to his work.
“I see him as a great professional of great trust whose patients hold in high regard,” the woman said.
The woman remembered that when Melgen accepted the award at a gala dinner at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables he talked about the difficulties he had adjusting to the United States as an immigrant.
No one has a specific date when Melgen immigrated to the United States, but the woman at the Dominican Healthcare Association said it was possible he arrived in the late 1970s.
Melgen graduated in 1978 from the Pedro Henríquez Ureña National University in Santo Domingo, and by 1980 was doing an internship at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut.
He found professional and financial success in South Florida, where he says he was the first physician to perform out-patient eye surgery in 1986.
But Palm Beach court records show Melgen also has faced financial problems — including multiple IRS liens for millions of dollars.
One lawsuit hints at complications in his personal life. Melgen’s company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, sued Yuddehiris Dorrejo in 2000 amid a business dispute that involved a close relationship with Melgen.
Online records available immediately at the Palm Beach Courthouse Wednesday did not contain the full case file, but a four-page order by Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge John Wessel dismissing the case in March 2002 summarized the details of the legal dispute.