Background: Melgen-Menendez Dominican Port Security Deal

Background: Melgen-Menendez Dominican Port Security Deal

With the news of a Grand Jury investigating business ties between Sen. Bob Menendez and mega-donor Salomon Melgen, Breitbart News revisits the entire time-line of the questionable Dominican port security deal. The timeline of the Melgen-Menendez Dominican port security deal reads like the plot of a Hollywood movie. This comprehensive chronology traces the deal back to family connections established during the Trujillo dictatorship:

1930 – Rafael Trujillo is elected President in an uncontested election after a military coup. Thus begins a 31 year dictatorship that is characterized by “El Jefe’s” brutal consolidation of power, the deaths of as many as 50,000 innocents who got in his way, rapacious acquisition of wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, and a cult of personality that indulged Trujillo’s passions.

1932 – Joaquín Balaguer begins a 28 year career as a functionary in the Trujillo regime. When he dies in 2006, his obituary in the New York Times  notes that “critics often called him the ‘caudillo’ or the strongman.”

1952 – Salomon Melgen is born in the Dominican Republic. His extended family is well connected to the Trujillo regime. His father is a prominent doctor who descends from Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants to the Dominican Republic. His mother’s maiden name is Seman, and her sister is married to an aggressive young attorney, Vincho Castillo. Over the next six decades, Castillo will become a powerful, connected member of the ruling Dominican elite with close ties to Trujillo and many of his successors.

1958 – Vincho Castillo, uncle of Salomon Melgen, is elected to Congress. He aligns with Dictator Trujillo. 

1961 – Dictator Trujillo is assassinated

September 1963 – Seven months into his term, newly elected Bosch is overthrown as president in a military coup.

April 1965 – Colonel Francisco Caamaño leads a rebellion that removes the military junta from power. Fearing a Communist takeover, United States President Lyndon Johnson sends in 42,000 American troops. An interim government is established, and new elections are scheduled.

1966 – Joaquín Balaguer defeats Juan Bosch in the national election with 57% of the vote and begins his second term as President of the Dominican Republic. Former rebel leader Caamaño goes into exile.

1960s – Junior military officer Juan Rene Beauchamp marries Belinda Galvan. Beauchamp becomes friends with Manuel Noriega, a junior military officer in the Panamanian Armed Forces.

1973 – Former rebel leader Caamaño, returns from exile the Dominican Republic with a small team in hopes of establishing a guerrilla uprising to overthrow strongman President Joaquín Balaguer. He is captured and executed by an elite military squad headed up by Juan Rene Beauchamp, now a Brigadier General in the Dominican Armed Forces.

1975- Juan Rene Beauchamp, now a Major General, is named Commander of the Dominican Armed Forces.

1978 – Salomon Melgen graduates from National University Pedro Henriquez Urena Medical School at the age of 26.

1978 – Juan Rene Beauchamp, resigns as Commander of the Dominican Armed Forces, but remains well connected to the political leadership of the Dominican republic. Already wealthy, he become an even wealthier landowner. He also serves for a time as the Dominican Ambassador to Argentina.

1979 – Salomon Melgen moves permanently to the United States. His first job is as a resident in surgery at the Miami Heart Institute at St. Francis Hospital in Miami Beach, Florida.

1987 – Jean Rene Beauchamp, son of Major General Juan Rene Beauchamp and Belinda Galvan, marries Sandra Noriega, daughter of Panamanian military dictator Manuel Noriega.

1988 – After stints at the University of Missouri and elsewhere in the US, 36 year old Melgen founds Vitreo-Retinal Consultants (The Melgen Eye Center) in southern Florida, where he specializes in opthalmology and eye surgery.

1990 – Manuel Noriega’s wife and two of his children flee to the Dominican Republic after his capture and imprisonment, where they reside for a period of time with retired Major General Juan Rene Beauchamp and his family.

1998 – Melgen makes a seed venture investment in Seisint, a Boca Raton Florida database company founded by admitted Caribbean cocaine smuggler Hank Asher, who claims to have voluntarily left the business to “go straight” and become a legitimate entrepreneur. Melgen’s lawyer will later claim that the profits off this investment formed the basis of his substantial wealth.

1998 – 47 year old Melgen begins an affair with Yudehiris (“Judy”) Dorrejo, a Dominican woman in her twenties. Melgen tells Dorrejo he is divorced, even though he is married throughout the affair. He showers her with gifts, including a Mercedes-Benz, a condominium in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and a $700,000 deposit in her bank account.  He estimates later he spent more than $900,000 on her. He visits her every six weeks in the Dominican Republic, where they spend three or four days together each visit.

2000 – Melgen ends the affair when he discovers his mistress is living with a boyfriend in the Dominican Republic. Melgen sues his now former lover Dorrejo in Palm Beach County Court, Florida for $700,000, claiming it was a loan to start a clothing franchise in the Dominican Republic. Melgen’s former lover, Dorrejo, experiences problems traveling from her native Dominican Republic to the United States. Through an intermediary, she asks Guido Gomez Mazara, politically connected to President Mejia, to assist in securing the ability to travel to the United States. Gomez Mazara succeeds in his efforts.

December 2000 – Now retired Major General Javier Juan Rene Beauchamp is assassinated at his home in the Dominican Republic just months after Hipolito Mejia was elected as the country’s new president. One report said that Beauchamp’s assassin’s motive was revenge, and he used a gun that Beauchamp had taken from Caamana, and kept as a personal prize after his execution, as the murder weapon.

2002 – Less than two years after Major General Beauchamp’s assassination, President Mejia gives his widow, Belinda Galvan, the extraordinary contract that granted the company she owned, ICSSI, a monopoly on the inspection of all containers going in and out of the twelve Dominican ports for a period of ten years. The contract was granted despite Galvan’s lack of port security experience, the lack of any financial assets in her company, the lack of any X-ray machines or other security equipment, and the lack of any experience or knowledge in the operation of such equipment.

Both the Dominican Armed Forces leaders who sign off on the contract and the Dominican Congress that ratified it, at the request of President Mejia, may have been duped by a legal sleight of hand. They may have believed they were approving a contract with a legitimate company of Panamanian registry with a very similar name, ICSS, to Galvan’s ICSSI.

Salomon Melgen’s first cousin, Pelegrin Castillo, a Deputy in the Dominican Republic’s Chamber of Deputies, votes against the ICSSI port deal because it was granted without competitive bidding.

April 2002 –  The IRS slaps a $1.1 million lien on Melgen in Palm Beach County, Florida. 

April 2002 – Since there is no written contract, a Palm Beach County Florida judge rules against Melgen in his $900,000 lawsuit against his former lover Yudehiris (“Judy”) Dorrejo. Melgen and his attorneys vow to appeal the case to a higher court in Florida.

May 2002 – Martin Abreu Pimentel, a former political assistant to President Mejia, is murdered in a hail of gunfire in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 

August 2002 – The IRS withdraws the $1.1 million lien on Melgen.

October 2002 – At a public hearing of the House of Representatives, Congressman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) links Guido Gomez Mazara’s name to the murder of Pimentel and five other Dominican political appointees.

Late 2002 – The Swiss firm Cotecna, a world wide expert in port security and equipment, purchases a 50% interest in ICSSI for a payment of $50,000. In a highly unusual element of the deal, Cotecna promises to pay Galvan an additional $1 million for the “goodwill” in the company that resulted from her efforts to secure the monopoly deal from the Dominican Republic. It is not clear if that money is ever paid to Galvan.

December 2002 – The US Government suspends Gomez Mazara’s visa to travel to the United States.

2003-The original contract between ICSSI and the government of the Dominican Republic, that was ratified by the Dominican Congress in 2002, is revised significantly to the advantage of ICSSI by executive fiat of President Mejia, as reported by the Dominican Republic news site Diario Libre

2004 – In the Dominican Republic, the Customs Directorate files a lawsuit in Dominican courts to stop the enforcement of it calls the “unconstitutional” ICSSI contract.

2004 – Melgen makes a substantial profit from the sale of Seisint, the company in which he was a seed investor, according to his attorney. The company sells for $775 million to Lexis Nexis. Founder Hank Asher claims that his personal share is $250 million.

2005 – Melgen invests $20 million in a Ponzi scheme operated out of Palm Beach, Florida. The Ponzi scheme collapses, its principles are convicted and go to prison. Melgen initiates a lawsuit agains the principles, but, like most investors, Melgen has yet to recover any of his $20 million investment. Prospects for the recovery of any of the $20 million Melgen invested are not good.

2006 – As the ICSSI lawsuit winds through the Dominican courts, Customs Director Cocco tries for a compromise. He asks Galvan to modify the contract so that it will be controlled by Cotecna, a company that has the track record and experience she and ICSSI lack. Galvan refuses, and in 2006, she buys back Cotecna’s half interest in the company, though it’s unclear what the financial terms of the transaction are.

2006 – The Department of Health and Human Services initiates an investigation of Melgen’s Medicare billing practices, and requires him to pay back $8.9 million he’s received from the Medicare reimbursement program.

2006 – The IRS slaps a $6 million lien on Melgen.

2009 – Melgen forms Boarder Support Services, a Florida limited liability company. This entity will later purchase controlling interest in ICSSI.

2010 – An audit of ICSSI related to the Dominican lawsuit shows that it has only $50,000 in assets–$10,000 in cash and $40,000 in equipment. 

2010 – Menendez talks with the Department of Health and Human Services about their investigation of Melgen.

April 2011 – Melgen and Sanchez form LaVox, LLC in Florida, the company that owns VOXXI, an English language Hispanic news website.

May 2011 – The IRS slaps another $11 million lien on Melgen, bringing total liens against him to $17 million.

August 2011 – The IRS removes $6 million of Melgen liens, reducing total liens against him to $11 million.

August, 2011 – Dr. Salomon Melgen purchases a 50% interest in ICSSI for $100,000 through his company Boarder Support Services, LLC. The only significant asset of ICSSI–the company in which he now owns a half interest–is a disputed and unimplemented concessionary port contract that could be worth $500 million over ten years, but it has been languishing in litigation for seven years, with no end in sight.

Late 2011 – Melgen’s VOXXI English language Hispanic news website launches.

December, 2011 – Dominican President Leonel Fernández, a friend of Melgen’s who has attended at least one event at Melgen’s Dominican mansion, creates a commission designed to circumvent the stalled ICSSI legal case. He stacks the commission with Melgen allies, including the former legal counsel for ICSSI.

February 7, 2012 – Melgen’s VOXXI news site holds a launch party in Washington, D.C., attended by Melgen, Menendez, and other power figures in national politics, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

May 20, 2012 – Danilo Medina is elected President of the Dominican Republic. He is a member of the same party as his predecessor, Leonel Fernández. Fernández’s wife wins election as Medina’s Vice-President.

July 31, 2012 – Senator Menendez publicly pressures State Department officials at a hearing of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee he chairs to “send a message” to the Dominican Republic that the country must not violate contracts with companies that are American owned.

August 15, 2012 – On the last day of his term, the commission established by Dominican Republic President Fernández issues a report with recommendations to him that are highly favorable to Melgen’s ICSSI. It recommends removing the implementation of the contract from the Customs Directorate, which opposes it, to the Dominican Port Authority, which presumably is more inclined to implement the ICSSI contract. The commission also rejects the Customs Directorate’s recommendation that the entire contract be re-opened for competitive bidding. 

August 16, 2012 – Danilo Medina is inaugurated as President of the Dominican Republic, replacing Leonel Fernández. Medina must now decide whether to accept the recommendations of his predecessor’s commission to force implementation of the ICSSI contract or wait for the court case to be resolved. 

December 2012 – Pedro Pablo Permuy, former aide to Senator Menendez, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Latin America, current President of the US-Spain Council, joins Melgen to call on State Department officials in Washington on behalf of ICSSI. They tell Deputy Assistant Secretary Todd Roberson, whose responsibilities include anti-narcotics enforcement,  that the State Department should support enforcement of ICSSI’s disputed contract. Melgen also objects to State Department plans to donate port security equipment to a second Dominican port, as it will hurt his disputed contract. An aide to Senator Menendez follows ups with an e-mail to the State Department that reiterates this concern.

January 2013 – As the New York Times reported, a member of Senator Menendez’s staff e-mails officials at Customs and Boarder Protection at the Department of Homeland Security.  The aide argues against an American donation of port security equipment to a second Dominican report, stating that the Dominican government may not use it properly. “Only by hiring the unnamed private contractor, the e-mail said, could the United States be assured that port security in the Dominican Republic would be enhanced,” according to the Times.

January 29, 2013 – The FBI raids Melgen’s Florida offices. The Miami Herald reports that “[t]he investigation is believed to be focusing on Melgen’s finances and the allegations about Menendez’s trips and contact with prostitutes.” Some reports suggest that the raid may also be related to the ongoing Department of Health and Human Services investigation into the $8.9 million in Medicare reimbursements Melgen is alleged to have improperly billed.

February 1, 2013 – Senator Robert Menendez becomes Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

February 5, 2013 – The New York Times reports that a lawyer for Melgen’s security company claims that Pedro Pablo Permuy, a former senior aide to Senator Robert Menendez, will run the operations of the firm’s Dominican port security contract. In an email to the Times, Permuy denies that he is either an employee or a board member of Melgen’s security company. He does not comment on whether he has been paid by Melgen as a consultant. A spokesman for Senator Menendez claims the senator had no knowledge of Permuy’s involvement with Melgen’s company prior to this week.

February 9, 2013 – The New York Times calls on Menendez to step down as Foreign Relations Committee Chair.

February 10, 2013 – The New York Times reports that Dominican customs agency spokesman Abinader Fortunato states that “Dr. Melgen’s contract wrongly leaves screening in the hands of a private company and not a state agency.” He wonders how much influence Menendez and Melgen have had on the United States government’s decision not to donate additional promised port security equipment to the Dominican Republic.


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