FBI sources confirm grand jury investigation of Sen. Bob Menendez
An FBI agent in a supervisory position on the East Coast of the U.S. told The Daily Caller Thursday that he is aware of investigative reports sent from the bureau to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Miami, Florida, in connection with a grand jury investigation into New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.
A second law-enforcement source, a recently retired FBI agent, also confirmed the investigation and the grand jury.
The Washington Post reported Thursday evening that multiple sources confirmed the grand jury’s existence, and said it was focused on his relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida donor whose relationship with the Democratic lawmaker 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.
Tricia Enright, a Menendez spokeswoman, has declined to comment on whether Melgen cashed that check.
The Senate Ethics committee is investigating Menendez for failing to report that travel as a perk from a campaign donor, although Menendez could claim he received it instead as a gift from a longtime friend. The Post reported Thursday that a nexus between Melgen’s gifts and political favors Menendez allegedly performed for him would be hard to prove.
Those favors reportedly include intervening with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is investigating Melgen, an eye doctor, for allegedly overbilling the federal government by $9 million for ocular injections.
The embattled senator has also been accused of using his position on the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee — a body he now chairs — to pressure the Dominican government to honor a languishing port security contract that could pay $500 million to a company Melgen owns.
Menendez’s travel on Melgen’s jet became important after The Daily Caller reported in November, and then again in January, on allegations made by prostitutes that they were paid to have sex with Menendez at the Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic. (RELATED: What we know about Menendez and the ladies of the evening)
The Post uncritically reported in March on claims in an affidavit filed Jan. 25 in that island nation by a woman who said she was paid to fabricate one of those allegations. No evidence has emerged that the woman is one of the two prostitutes TheDC interviewed on camera for a Nov. 1, 2012 story. (RELATED: Post report confuses one prostitute with another)
In addition, TheDC has been unable to confirm that the woman, who gave her name in the affidavit as Nexis de los Santos Santana, actually exists. She did not attend the March 4 press conference where the affidavit was first presented.
In the affidavit, Nexis de los Santos Santana’s voter ID number — what Dominicans call a cedula — was presented as a 10-digit number. Dominican cedulas have 11 digits.
Using the Dominican government’s online voter registration database to insert the digits 0 through 9 in each of the possible places where a digit may have been missing, TheDC was unable to identify any voters who reside in the Vista Catalina neighborhood of the city of La Romana — the area where the affidavit said de los Santana resides.
In addition, the street on which she claimed to reside does not exist in any of more than a dozen maps TheDC has examined. Multiple sources on the ground in the Dominican Republic have been unable to locate that street, where the affidavit said de los Santos resides in a house with no number.
TheDC attempted to contact Miguel Galván, a Dominican attorney who filed his own affidavit alongside the de los Santos document and vouched for her with the Dominican press. A secretary at his office promised to call TheDC with a number where Galván could be reached, but she did not provide it. Upon hearing it was TheDC requesting the information, she replied only, “Ohhh.”
The mysterious de los Santos, who said she was 23 years old, also does not appear to have social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Myspace.
By contrast, TheDC has been able to locate three social media profiles matching the names and descriptions of women named as Menendez’s prostitutes in the documents that surfaced online on January 23.
One of those profiles, a Facebook page belonging to a woman named Geraldine Garcia, vanished in February less than 24 hours after The Daily Caller sent a Facebook message asking if Garcia could help locate Dr. Melgen.
Menendez told the Post on Thursday during a meeting in his office that he expects to be vindicated.
“I believe, at the end of the day, that my actions have been appropriate,” he said, according to the Post. “And just as everything that gave rise to this was a smear campaign based on slanders that drove the original story, I believe that when any review reviews the facts, they will determine that I have acted appropriately at all times.”
Enright, the Menendez spokeswoman, categorically denied on Feb. 25 that Menendez has ever had sex with prostitutes, including domestic call girls, before hanging up on TheDC. (RELATED: Bob Menendez flack denies new call-girl charges, hangs up on The Daily Caller)
Menendez has steadfastly denied any contact with prostitutes, even after TheDC conducted several interviews with an American escort who named him as one of her former clients.
But the American woman TheDC interviewed called Menendez a “hobbyist” — a man who “sees a lot of girls” who are paid for sex. (RELATED: Long-time escort confirms Sen. Bob Menendez paid her for sex)
She also said a Ukranian escort, Svitlana Buchyk, was tasked with recruiting young prostitutes for Menendez and Melgen to sleep with at the wealthy donor’s posh home at Casa de Campo.
According to reports in the Palm Beach Post, Melgen provided Buchyk with a rent-free oceanfront condominium to live in during most of 2009. (RELATED: Court documents show Menendez donor leased home for alleged prostitute)
A Dominican government official told TheDC in November that Menendez often attended parties at Melgen’s Casa de Campo resort home, and that prostitutes were typically the parties’ main attractions. (RELATED: Official says Menendez was frequent guest at “sex, hookers and drinking” parties)
Melgen and members of his family have contributed more than $1 million to Democratic campaigns, most of which benefited Menendez — who chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when it received $700,000 from the Melgen clan.
Vinicio Castillo Seman, a politician who is one of Melgen’ cousins, was himself implicated in allegations made by self-professed prostitutes in a cache of documents published online on January 23.
Those claims included two from women who said they were 16 years old when their sexual contact with the three men — Menendez, Melgen and Castillo — first began. (RELATED: Dominican prostitute said Menendez “likes the youngest and newest girls”)
Castillo provided the affidavit to Dominican media outlets on March 4, and to the Washington Post.
In November the Gawker website interviewed neighbors of Menendez in Washington, D.C. who said the senator frequently entertained beautiful female guests in his apartment, and that the women invariably left at 3:00 a.m. They described in detail hearing the New Jersey Democrat’s mattress creaking from downstairs on those occasions. (RELATED: Menendez had loud sex with different girl every night, says report)
Anne Hobson contributed reporting.