REUTERS - U.S. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was indicted on Wednesday on corruption charges, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.
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Menendez, 61, was indicted in New Jersey along with Florida ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen on one count of conspiracy, one count of violating the travel act, seven counts of bribery and three counts of honest services fraud, the DOJ spokesman said, adding the senator was also charged with one count of making false statements.
The agency said Menendez "allegedly accepted gifts from Melgen in exchange for using the power of his Senate office to benefit Melgen's financial and personal interests."
Menendez said on Wednesday he was outraged at the U.S. Justice Department's move to indict him on corruption charges and vowed "he will be vindicated."
"I am outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked into starting this investigation three years ago with false allegations by those who have a political motive to silence me. But I will not be silenced," Menendez told a crowd of journalists and cheering supporters at a televised appearance in Newark, New Jersey.
Saying he had always acted in accordance with the law, Menendez said: "At the end of the day, I will be vindicated and they will be exposed."
Menendez will step down as ranking Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate aides say.
He will hold a news conference at 7 p.m. (2300 GMT) in New Jersey.
For some time, federal authorities have been investigating his relationship with Melgen, a Democratic donor accused of overbilling the government's Medicare program.
Menendez, who is Cuban-American, is among the most senior Hispanic politicians in the country. He was re-elected to a second term in the Senate in 2012. He spent 13 years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"As we have said before, we believe all of the senator's actions have been appropriate and lawful, and the facts will ultimately confirm that," Tricia Enright, Menendez's communications director, said on March 6, responding to early reports that federal prosecutors were close to bringing charges against the senator.