JANUARY 24, 2014
Recently embroiled in an underage prostitute scandal and a number of corruption schemes, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez—is again under federal investigation for helping a pair of South American fugitives whose relatives donated big bucks to the senator.
It’s like a never-ending saga of political corruption and cronyism. In the last year alone, Menendez has been implicated in a number of serious crimes—including reported escapades with underage hookers in the Dominican Republic—that have simply fizzled away and left him virtually unscathed. We’ll get into those later, but first let’s delve into the Menendez scandal du jour.
Citing multiple government officials, a mainstream media outlet reports that the feds have launched a criminal probe into the senator’s efforts on behalf of two fugitive bankers from Ecuador. The wealthy businessmen, William and Roberto Isaias, brothers who live in South Florida, were convicted in their native Ecuador of embezzling north of $660 million during the country’s 1999 banking crisis. The brothers ran the country’s largest bank, Filanbanco, and evidently fled to Miami with a stash of cash as the bank collapsed.
Ecuador has repeatedly asked the U.S. for their extradition, but Uncle Sam has simply flipped the finger. In fact, the Isaias case came up this past summer when Vice President Joe Biden asked Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa to reject the asylum request of fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Biden “told me that Mr. Snowden was a fugitive of American justice and didn’t have a passport,” Correa said in Ecuador’s largest newspaper, El Telegrafo. “I told him, well, the Isaiases are fugitives of Ecuadoran justice and they also don’t have passports and you won’t extradite them.” Correa added that “the only difference is that the Isaiases have been sentenced.”
It appears that the brothers have escaped justice in their native country because they have friends in high places. Senator Menendez, who doesn’t even represent the state they live in, wrote letters and made phone calls to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department in support of the brothers, according to sources cited in this week’s news story. The former head of the FBI in New Jersey says the letters and calls were “shocking.”
Menendez even sent a personal letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, then director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), asking that the fugitive siblings get “full consideration” and that DHS “expedite its review.” Mayorkas, a Clinton federal prosecutor who resigned in shame after orchestrating the pardon of a major-league drug trafficker, has since been promoted to DHS Deputy Secretary.
This marks the latest of many transgressions for Menendez, a longtime member of the U.S. House before getting elected to the Senate. Last year was extra special for the lawmaker, who made headlines for abusing his power involving a lucrative port security contract that enriched a donor and one-time legislative aide. The donor is a shady Dominican doctor pal, Salomon Melgen, who has filled the senator’s campaign coffers with big bucks. Melgen is in the midst of a huge federal investigation for Medicare fraud and tax evasion.
An ophthalmologist who practices in South Florida, Melgen for years flew Menendez to his luxury Dominican estate in Casa de Campo in his private jet. In late 2012 a conservative website published a piece in which two prostitutes offered alarming details about the senator and Melgen paying them for sex in the Dominican Republic. Last year the FBI raided Melgen’s office and spent two days confiscating boxes of files and records.
These are only some of the senator’s more recent mishaps. As far back as 2007 Judicial Watch wrote about a federal grand jury investigation into Menendez illegally steering lobbying business to a girlfriend that also served as his chief of staff. The former aide/girlfriend built an unusually successful lobbying firm in a very short time after leaving Congress thanks to Menendez, according to news reports.
In 2010 Menendez and his colleague in corruption, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, allocated $8 million for a public walkway and park space adjacent to upscale, waterfront condos built by a developer that had donated generously to their political campaigns. The veteran legislators received about $100,000 in contributions from the developer, according to federal election records. In 2012 Judicial Watch put Menendez on its list of Washington’s “Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians.”
JW is also investigating whether the Obama administration blocked the deportation of an illegal immigrant sex offender who worked for Menendez to dodge a scandal that could have cost the politician reelection in 2012. A national newswire broke the story of how the White House apparently protected Menendez from yet another public relations crisis by delaying the removal of the illegal immigrant from Peru with an expired visa (like the 9/11 hijackers) and a criminal record for sexual assault.
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