The Washington Post

Escort says Menendez prostitution claims were made up

An escort who appeared on a video claiming that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) 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, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim.

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 Washington Post.

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.

The claims of two women that they had had sex with Menendez seemed to confirm a tipster’s allegations that Menendez had patronized prostitutes while vacationing 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.

FBI agents conducting interviews in the Dominican Republic have found no evidence to back up the tipster’s allegations, according to two people briefed on their work.

Menendez has denied the prostitution claims, saying they were made by enemies trying to undermine him as he sought reelection in the fall and became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this year.

Menendez said Monday he didn’t know the details of the two new statements. “But as 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.” he said. “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.”

The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted on the conservative Web site the Daily Caller. The site reported that “the 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.”

Daily Caller Editor Tucker Carlson did not reply to phone calls and e-mails requesting comment.

Melgen’s lawyer and allies in the Dominican Republic charged Monday that the video “confession” had been fabricated to tarnish Menendez as well as Melgen and his family. Melgen’s lawyer Kirk Ogrosky said his client was gratified to see local police unearthing “this campaign of lies.”

“Dr. Melgen is hopeful that the appropriate authorities will identify and prosecute the people who are responsible,” Ogrosky said. “As he has maintained from day one, Dr. Melgen has been cooperating with authorities in every way possible and he denies any wrongdoing.”

The escort, Nexis de los Santos Santana, 23, 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.

“Those are my words and that is me, but it does not reflect the truth,” she said in her affidavit.

In his statement, Galvan said the other attorney misled him about the purpose of the tape, saying he was working as a divorce lawyer for a client and simply needed someone to confirm infidelity on tape.

Santana and Galvan are now seeking a protective order and immunity in the court’s investigation.

Castillo released copies of the notarized affidavits given by Santana and Galvan that have been filed in a Dominican court. Dominican authorities had launched the investigation of the episode at the urging of the Castillo family.

“We are witnessing a perverse and criminal plot orchestrated by dark sectors of the Dominican Republic,” Castillo said in a statement.

The judge presiding over the case, Ismael Nehemias Ramirez, has summoned Melgen, Menendez and Castillo or their representatives for a Tuesday hearing on the protective order.

Menendez’s relationship with Melgen has brought both of them intense scrutiny. Melgen gave $700,000 to Menendez and other Democratic senators in the last election cycle. Menendez has repeatedly sought to help his friend, including efforts on behalf of a port security deal in the Dominican Republic that would benefit Melgen.

Peter Wallsten, Ed O’Keefe and Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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Carol Leonnig covers federal agencies with a focus on government accountability.

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