Paid for lies about Menendez, lawyer says

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez.
Posted: March 24, 2013

A top Dominican law-enforcement official said Friday that a local lawyer has reported being paid by someone claiming to work for the conservative website the Daily Caller to find prostitutes who would lie and say they had sex for money with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez.

The local lawyer told Dominican investigators that a foreign man, who identified himself as "Carlos," had offered him $5,000 to find and pay women in the Caribbean nation willing to make the claims about Menendez, according to Jose Antonio Polanco, district attorney for the La Romana region, where the investigation is being conducted.

The Daily Caller issued a statement Friday saying that the information allegedly provided by the Dominican lawyer, Melanio Figueroa, was false.

The videotaped claims of two women, made with their faces obscured, were posted last fall on 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."

In its statement, the Daily Caller said: "At no point did any money change hands between the Daily Caller and any sources or individuals connected with this investigation, nor did anyone named Carlos travel to the Dominican Republic on behalf of the Daily Caller. As recently as two weeks ago, Figueroa was on record with another news outlet as saying the women he represented were telling the truth about their initial allegations against Senator Menendez."

Tucker Carlson, who runs the website, said in a statement provided through his spokesman that the Daily Caller "never paid anyone, was never asked to pay anyone and of course never would pay anyone for this story.

"It seems clear to me Figueroa is under pressure to change his story," he said. "What I know for certain is this claim is a lie."

Earlier this month, Figueroa told the New York Times that he did not make up a plot to "smear" Menendez and his wealthy friend and donor, Salomon Melgen, and that one of the alleged prostitutes had been pressured to say she fabricated her account of sex with the senator.

Under police questioning, Figueroa said the foreign man, who said he worked for the Daily Caller but did not provide identification, asked him to arrange staged interviews, Polanco said.

Polanco said that Figueroa gave police an account describing his involvement in the taping, starting in October. He said he was approached by Carlos about the idea last fall, and they met in a bar in a Santo Domingo shopping center to discuss the details, according to Polanco. He said the foreign man gave Figueroa a $2,000 "advance," the lawyer told police, to make the arrangements for the interview.

In comments reported by Univision, Polanco said that Figueroa stated he was been contacted by four media outlets - Telemundo, Univision, CNN en EspaƱol, and the Daily Caller - that were interested in having interviews with the women. But Figueroa told police it was only "Carlos," who identified himself as working for the Daily Caller, who came to the Dominican Republic and paid him to arrange the recorded interviews, according to an interview with Polanco.

Figueroa has not responded to requests for comment.

The account that Dominican authorities said they received from Figueroa could not be independently confirmed by the Washington Post.

Earlier this week, Dominican police said three women were paid to lie about having sex for money with Menendez and a close friend. The police cited statements from the women and other evidence.

National police spokesman Maximo Baez Aybar told a news conference Monday that authorities had determined the women were paid hundreds of dollars by a local lawyer to make the false claims in videotaped interviews. The women said the lawyer coached them on what to say in their recorded statements, taped in a Dominican shopping mall.

On Monday, the Daily Caller posted an article saying that it "has not independently verified the identities of the women involved in the Dominican National Police investigation, but will continue to investigate the case."

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