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Federal grand jury investigating Florida's Menendez

| Thursday, March 14, 2013, 9:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in Miami is investigating Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., examining his role in advocating for the business interests of a wealthy donor and friend, according to three people aware of the probe.

Menendez has intervened in matters affecting the financial interests of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, seeking to apply pressure on the Dominican government to honor a contract with Melgen's port security company, documents and interviews show. Also, Menendez's office has acknowledged he interceded with federal health care officials after they said that Melgen had overbilled the U.S. government for care at his clinic.

Melgen has provided Menendez with plane flights and hospitality at his Dominican vacation home, say people acquainted with their relationship.

Last month, people with knowledge of the case said FBI agents were conducting interviews in the Dominican Republic and the United States concerning allegations against Menendez, including the role he played in advocating for the enforcement of the port security contract.

A grand jury probe, which involves a prosecutor pursuing allegations with an eye toward indictment, typically represents a legal escalation, though it does not always lead to a prosecution.

As part of the grand jury investigation, the three people said, federal agents have questioned witnesses about the interactions between Menendez and Melgen, who contributed $700,000 last year to Menendez and other Senate Democrats.

Federal agents have not contacted Menendez, according to a person familiar with the case.

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