March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Police in the Dominican Republic said three women were paid by an attorney to falsely claim on videotape that they had sex with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez.
Maximo Baez Aybar, a police spokesman, said at a press conference in Santo Domingo today that a Dominican attorney asked another lawyer to find the three women for him, saying the tape would be used in a divorce case.
Police said the women ranged in age from 20 to 24.
“They confessed that a person who seemed foreign asked them questions via the Internet and that they gave the answers that the lawyers who had hired them told them to give,” Baez said.
The women received 46,000 Dominican pesos ($1,100) to make the tape, Baez said.
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said the prostitution claims were made up by political enemies before his re-election in November. U.S. investigators are examining his relationship with a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, who has been a top political donor.
A federal grand jury in Miami is probing Menendez’s role in advocating for Melgen’s business interests, the Washington Post has reported. The Senate Ethics Committee also is examining Menendez.
The statements by the Dominican police “show this was a smear from the very beginning,” Menendez told reporters in Washington. “I hope that federal authorities here will prosecute just like Dominican authorities are,” he said.
Asked about reports that he is under investigation by a federal grand jury, Menendez said: “We welcome any review. We believe at the end of the day that any such review will show our actions were appropriate.”
At the press conference today, Dominican police also said the women had falsely stated on the videotape that they had sex with Melgen.
Melgen’s attorney, Kirk Ogrosky, said in an e-mailed statement that the announcement by the police is “further evidence corroborating what we have been saying from day one -- that the allegations against Doctor Melgen are false and politically motivated.”
Baez said the police investigation will continue and that the attorney general will determine whether to file charges.
Menendez’s approval ratings have plunged amid allegations that he improperly helped Melgen. A Quinnipiac University poll released last month showed that 36 percent of New Jersey voters approve of his performance, down 15 points from January. Seventy percent of those polled, including 72 percent of independents, said they had read or heard about the controversy.
To contact the reporter on this story: Susannah Nesmith in Miami at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark McQuillan in Washington, at firstname.lastname@example.org