Documents published online for the first time Thursday indicate that the FBI opened an inquiry into New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez on August 1, 2012, focusing on repeated trips he took to the Dominican Republic with longtime campaign contributor and Miami eye doctor Salomon Melgen. TheDC reported in November that Menendez purchased the service of prostitutes in that Caribbean nation at a series of alcohol-fueled sex parties.
The documents, which The Daily Caller had obtained hours earlier from an anonymous source, also indicate that Carrie Levine, research director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was alerted on April 9, 2012 to Menendez’s habit of paying for sex while outside the United States. (RELATED: Read the tipster’s dossier on Sen. Menendez)
ABC News senior investigative producer Rhonda Schwartz was aware as early as May 2, 2012, the documents show, when Levine wrote a source in the Dominican Republic to say that she had “shared your allegations, but not your identities, with a respected, trusted journalist with whom we have worked on other stories.”
In another email two days later, Levine identified that journalist as one who “works for ABC News.” By May 16, Schwartz was emailing Levine’s original source with questions.
Information made available to Schwartz and Levine at that time included allegations that some of Menendez’s prostitutes were as young as 16. The source also alleged that Sen. Menendez was taking “non-authorized trips” to the Dominican Republic, suggesting that he may have been evading Senate Ethics committee rules covering disclosures when third parties pay for a senator’s travel. (RELATED: NRSC says Menendez may have broken Senate ethics rules, federal campaign finance laws)
Those rules require senators to secure approval from the committee before allowing a private person or company to provide transportation or lodging related to official business. But the Senate’s “gift rule database,” available online, contains nothing related to a Menendez visit to the Dominican Republic.
The rules also allow senators to accept free lodging or travel as gifts from friends. Those transactions must also be documented on an annual financial disclosure report, and approved in advance by the Senate Ethics committee if the value is more than $335. Menendez’s disclosures since the mid-1990s, when he was a member of the House of Representatives, include no mention of such gifts.
On Sept. 11, 2012, the documents indicate, the same source who provided information to Levine and Schwartz also sent an FBI Special Agent in Miami what he described as “the testimony of one of the girls.”
“I have in my possession the original written in her own hand,” the source wrote. “She’s 19 now, but took part in private parties with Senator Menendez being only 16.”
That testimony-style interview was published online along with the other Menendez-related documents on Thursday.