A politically connected South Florida eye surgeon under investigation by the FBI filed a lawsuit against his former lover in a case centered on a dispute about whether he gave her close to a million dollars for a joint business venture or, as she testified, because “he wanted me to live like royalty.”
In late January, federal agents raided the offices of West Palm Beach eye surgeon Salomon Melgen in an investigation about Medicare billing. The FBI is separately examining his relationship with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez a New Jersey Democrat, and the trips they took on Melgen’s private plane to the Dominican Republic. Through his lawyers, Melgen has denied wrongdoing.
In 2000, after his love affair with Yudehiris Dorrejo ended, Melgen filed a lawsuit on behalf of his company, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, against Dorrejo in an attempt to get his money back. A Palm Beach judge dismissed the case two years later, citing jurisdictional issues in the dispute that involved no written contract.
An attorney for Melgen, Alan Reider, told The Miami Herald in an email: “The legal dispute with Ms. Dorrejo concluded over a decade ago. Dr. Melgen believed at the time and continues to believe that he had a valid legal claim. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate to comment.”
Depositions of Melgen and Dorrejo taken in 2001 read like a trashy romantic tale gone bad, with a business twist. It’a story laced with bizarre allegations from death threats to consultations with witch doctors.
The depositions show the wealthy Melgen lavishing his girlfriend with a Mercedes-Benz , private airplane flights and a cash-stuffed bank account. Melgen testified that he gave her money to launch a clothing store together, though she testified they never had a business relationship.
Melgen said that he first met Dorrejo in 1998 through a friend in Santo Domingo, the city he’s originally from. Melgen told her that he was single, but when she found out he was married they broke up, she testified. She would have been about 28 at the time. He was in his mid 40s.
Later that year in October, she said Melgen sent for her to meet him at a suite at the Ritz-Carlton in West Palm Beach “to propose the conditions for our romantic relationship,” she testified.
Melgen proposed that they get back together and said he was divorced. “He showed me divorce papers, which were falsified, I later found out,” she said.
Melgen then set up a bank account for her for whatever she needed. “He wanted me to live like royalty, that I would have no problems of any kind,” she testified
At the time, she worked for a store in the Dominican Republic called Vestimenta that she had formed with her mother in 1996. In 1999, Vestimenta entered into a franchise or distribution agreement with the clothing store Vertigo, according to Dorrejo’s testimony. At the time of the deposition, the store operated under the Vertigo name at the Diamond Mall in Santo Domingo.
Melgen testified that he had pitched the business idea one day when they were “in bed just talking” at the Ritz-Carlton.
“And I said why don’t you ask for the franchise of Vertigo and we go into a joint venture....” he said. He had hoped to establish an absolute right to Vertigo in the Dominican Republic, he said.