In a bizarre new twist to the saga of Sen. Bob Menendez and his donor-friend Salomon Melgen, members of Melgen’s circle are now hurling accusations at FBI agents investigating the pair’s relationship.
During an appearance on the weekly Dominican TV show La Respuesta last week, Melgen’s uncle Vincho Castillo accused the FBI of threatening and kidnapping two of Melgen’s maids. In addition to being the Dominican Republic’s top drug cop and founder of a far right-wing political party, Vincho Castillo is also the father of Vinicito Castillo, a lawyer who allegedly participated in sex parties organized by Melgen.
Melgen’s maids joined the fracas this week, claiming that FBI agents mistreated them and tried to coerce incriminating statements about Menendez during questioning in February about sex parties at Melgen’s Dominican Republic resort home. The maids have reportedly requested that the Dominican National Police investigate the FBI’s interrogation of them.
The FBI does not discuss ongoing investigations on the record, but a former FBI agent with knowledge of the investigation told The Daily Caller Castillo’s complaint is “absurd” and “utterly lacking in merit,” adding, “The FBI just doesn’t do that kind of stuff.”
Melgen—a major Democratic donor and longtime friend to Menendez—is currently under investigation by the FBI.
According to Vincho Castillo, two FBI agents interrogated Melgen’s maids in the police quarters of La Romana “in the absence of judicial order, without the presence of the official, or of lawyers.” The domestic employees have lodged a formal complaint before the Dominican authorities with the help of lawyers, Castillo told La Respuesta.
In the complaint, said Castillo, the women explain how they were subjected to pressure, falsely imprisoned and intimidated by the agents’ threatening questions.
The Castillos have used the press and the courts to press their case before. The family maintains that there is a “plot” against Menendez and Melgen organized by drug cartels and coordinated by a man named “Carlos” who has accused The Daily Caller, among other news organizations, of paying $5,000 for the Menendez scoop.
Tucker Carlson, editor in chief of the Daily Caller, has denied those charges.
Previous claims by the Castillos have also disintegrated on close inspection. In January, Vinicito Castillo presented an affadavit purportedly from “Nexis de los Santos Santana,” a prostitute claiming she had been paid to fabricate claims against Menendez. TheDC found that the voter ID number—what Dominicans call a cedula—was missing a digit, raising a question as to whether or not she even exists. (RELATED: FBI sources confirm grand jury investigation of Sen. Bob Menendez)
In addition, the street on which this woman claimed to reside in the affidavit does not exist in any of more than a dozen maps TheDC has examined. Multiple sources on the ground in the Dominican Republic were also unable to locate that street, where the affidavit said de los Santos resides in a house with no number. The prostitute identified by the Castillos also did not attend the March 4 press conference where the affidavit was first presented by Vinicito Castillo, and she has not appeared publicly in the month since.
Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist and major donor to Menendez, has been at the center of several allegations of serious ethics lapses. The senator has acknowledged Melgen provided him with free air travel to the Dominican Republic aboard his private jet on three occasions in 2010. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reimbursed Melgen for one of those trips. Menendez himself wrote a $58,500 check for the other two in January 2013, nearly three years after the travel occurred.
Melgen, for his part, has been pushing back this week. In his first-ever interview, Melgen told Bloomberg on April 1 that he and the senator were “like brothers” and that he had asked the Senator’s advice on Medicare but had not violated the law.