It looks like the controversy surrounding New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and his alleged dalliances with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic may have taken an interesting twist.
“An escort who appeared on a video claiming [Menendez] paid her for sex has told Dominican authorities that she was instead paid to make up the claims and has never met or seen the senator,” the Washington Post reports, citing court documents and two sources briefed on the claim.
This appears to be the first time since the original story of the senator’s alleged “sexual indiscretions” broke that one of his supposed accusers has come forward.
“The woman said a local lawyer had approached her and a fellow escort and asked them [to] help frame Menendez and a top donor, Salomon Melgen, according to affidavits obtained by The Post [emphasis added],” the report adds.
“That lawyer has in turn identified a second Dominican lawyer who he said gave the woman a script and paid her to read the claims aloud. The first lawyer said he found out only later that the remarks would be videotaped and used against Menendez, the affidavits say.”
Identified by the WaPo as Nexis de los Santos Santana, the 23-year-old supposedly appeared in a video last year with another woman (faces blurred out) and “seemed to confirm a tipster’s allegations” that the New Jersey senator paid escorts for various “services” while on vacation in the Dominican Republic.
“The tipster, who last spring began e-mailing allegations to a government watchdog group and the FBI, said he had evidence that Menendez had relations with underage prostitutes and participated in sex parties arranged by Melgen, his friend and political backer,” the report adds.
However, FBI agents say they have found nothing to back up these claims, according to the WaPo’s sources.
But before we go any further, it’s important to note Melgen is a major Democrat backer, donating roughly $700,000 during the last election cycle to the senator and other Democratic candidates. It’s also important to note that Melgen is currently involved in a federal criminal investigation while Menendez is facing an ethics inquiry over certain financial irregularities.
Sen. Menendez has vigorously denied the allegations, saying that they’re “smears” designed to destroy his reelection bid and undermine his selection as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I’ve said all along, there are obviously some people, some interests using right-wing blogs that have been perpetuating smears about me and I hope that all the truth comes out, because they are nothing but that — smears,” the senator said Monday.
“I’ve always said that these are all false. They’re smears, so I look forward to seeing whatever the Dominican courts have to prove what I’ve said all along,” he added.
According to the original story: “[T]he two women said they met Menendez around Easter at Casa de Campo, an expensive 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic … They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.”
However, today’s Washington Post article disagrees:
… [D]e los Santos Santana … said in an affidavit she was hired by lawyer Miguel Galvan to do a taped interview with journalists in mid-October. Galvan explained to her that a false account was needed for a divorce case. De los Santos said she was surreptitiously taped implicating Menendez, Melgen, and prominent Dominican lawyer Vinicio Castillo Selmán, Melgen’s cousin, in hiring prostitutes.
Wait, “surreptitiously videotaped”? She didn’t think that the “false account” she had agreed to give in a divorce case was going to be recorded while she sat in front of a computer and answered questions? Well, okay then.
“Those are my words and that is me, but it does not reflect the truth,” she said, according to her affidavit. “I never went to bed with [Menendez or Melgen]. I don’t know them. They were going to pay me a lot.”
Meanwhile, Galvan said in a statement that he was also misled into believing that the setup was about a divorce case. He claims that he was told he just needed to get someone to go on the record (i.e. on tape) alleging infidelity.
“Santana and Galvan are now seeking a protective order and immunity in the court’s investigation,” the report notes.
Meanwhile, the senator’s relationship with Melgen, his big buck donor, is still under “intense scrutiny.”
Menendez sponsored legislation with incentives for natural gas vehicle conversions that would benefit Melgen, the same eye doctor whose private jet Menendez used for two personal trips to the Dominican Republic, an Associated Press investigation found.
Final Thought: So now one of the women supposedly involved in the Mendendez story claims she was paid to read a script? You know, it’s possible that she could have been paid to say that she was paid to read a script (silly, but possible). This is all so confusing.
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This post has been updated. The Associated Press contributed to this report.