Report: Feds probe Bob Menendez on Ecuador banker links
FBI agents are reportedly looking into Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez’s dealings with two fugitive Ecuadorean bankers, according to a New York City TV station.
WNBC in New York — citing anonymous sources — reported on Thursday evening that the New Jersey senator contacted the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department on behalf of W illiam and Roberto Isaias Dassum. The brothers are fighting extradition to Ecuador over charges that they allegedly embezzled tens of millions of dollars from the country’s largest bank before it failed and had to be rescued by the Ecuadorean government.
The brothers were convicted in absentia in 2012, but a Florida court refused to allow the Ecuadorean government to seize $20 million in assets the Dassums held in the United States. Ecuador has already confiscated $400 million worth of property owned by the brothers back home, including media companies
According to WNBC, Menendez contacted Homeland Security in April 2012 on the brothers’ behalf.
WNBC said family members of the fugitives donated $10,000 to Menendez’s successful 2012 relection campaign, as well as $100,000 to the Democratic Party.
Menendez is already the subject of a federal criminal probe into his dealings with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a close friend and financial backer.
Menendez reportedly intervened with federal officials on behalf of Melgen, who was being investigated for reportedly overbilling Medicare by $9 million for eye treatments.
Melgen and his family have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Menendez and other Democrats during the past 15 years, federal campaign disclosure records show.
Melgen also gave $700,000 in 2012 to a Democratic super PAC that spent heavily in support of Menendez’s reelection campaign.
The criminal investigation into Melgen and Menendez has dragged on for more than a year with no charges against either man, but this latest report puts Menendez back into scandal mode.
Menendez’s office criticized the WNBC report as based on anonymous sources, and added that Menendez “was not aware” of any criminal probe into his interactions with the Dassum brothers.
“A year after a false smear campaign was launched against Sen. Menendez, once again we see anonymous sources making outlandish allegations,” said Tricia Enright, a Menendez spokeswoman. “Our office works each year with literally hundreds of individuals and families from across the country who are seeking help with the immigration process. We review each and every request we receive, and if we feel any inquiry is appropriate, we make it.”
Enright added: “In this particular case, Senator Menendez believed the Isaias family had been politically persecuted in Ecuador, including through the confiscation of media outlets they owned which were critical of the government. We are not aware of any inquiry into the senator’s actions on this matter.”
JOHN BRESNAHAN, Politico