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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Hookergate they're calling it: Things you should know about Bob Menendez

FBI agents carry out boxes as law enforcement officials investigate the medical office complex of Dr. Salomon Melgen, who has ties to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) on January 30, 2013, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

1) Who is Robert Menendez and why is everyone in the Washington, Miami, Havana triangle talking about him?

Robert Menendez is a US born son of Cuban immigrants and a Democratic senator from New Jersey where a large Cuban-American community resides. He is viciously anti-Castro and an outspoken supporter of the embargo on Cuba. He is slated to replace John Kerry as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if Kerry gets appointed as Secretary of State. He has become the subject of  two potentially career-ruining scandals.

2)Scandal no 1.

Scandal No. 1 involves 18-year-old Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta—an illegal Peruvian immigrant, registered sex offender, and former unpaid intern for Menendez’s 2012 Senate reelection campaign. Sanchez was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on December 6, 2012, but the Associated Press reported that ICE had planned to arrest him previously on October 25 but was asked by the Department of Homeland Security to hold off till after the election. A DHS spokesman dismissed the report as “categorically false,” and Menendez’s office denied knowing anything about DHS’s alleged interference or the intern’s legal status.

3) Hookergate Scandal No.2

In early November last year—before the Sanchez case was reported and just days before the election—the Daily Caller, a conservative blog, reported that the divorced father-of-two had made several trips via private plane to the Dominican Republic for rendezvous with underage prostitutes, citing interviews with an anonymous Dominican Republic official and local women—also unidentified. Menendez’s office promptly denied the allegations and his reelection was unhampered.

The rumour resurfaced on January 24, when an anonymous blogger posted emails between the FBI and a tipster going by the name of Peter Williams. The emails referenced conversations Williams said he had with women in the Dominican Republic who said they attended sex parties with Menendez at a house and on a yacht both owned by Florida opthalmologist Salomon Melgen. Williams had initially emailed the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, which forwarded the emails to the FBI and to ABC News. On January 25, the Daily Caller ran a story on the leaked emails, prompting CREW to publish its correspondence with the tipster on its own website.

4) The Salomon Melgen connection

Melgen is a south Florida opthalmologist who owns the yacht and home where Menendez’s alleged Dominican sex parties reportedly took place. He is also a longtime friend and donor of the senator’s and since last year has been the subject of an FBI investigation. Two years ago, Melgen bought an ownership stake in a company with a dormant contract with the Dominican Republic to provide border security; Menendez then urged officials to enforce the contract, worth about $500 million. Menendez also failed to report two round-trip flights to the Dominican Republic on board Melgen’s jet in 2010. Menendez reimbursed Melgen as required last month, his spokeswoman calling the matter an “oversight.”

5) How reliable are all these reports?

Hardly any of this information is confirmed, nor has it been verified by sources who are willing to be named. As the FBI investigation continues, more concrete facts can be expected to surface, but at this point the most incriminating accusations against Menendez have come from tips—mostly anonymous—to blogs. 
But mud has a habit of sticking...

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