Dominican police say women were paid to lie about Sen. Robert Menendez

Posted at 4:16 PM, Mar 19, 2013

By Dana Ford, CNN

(CNN) — Three woman in the Dominican Republic were paid to claim, falsely, that they had sex with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, police said in a statement Monday.

The women were paid by attorney Melanio Figueroa, who worked with Miguel Galvan, another attorney, they said.

Galvan has previously said that another lawyer asked him to assist in a divorce case by finding “witnesses” to claim they had sex with Menendez for money.

Attempts to contact Figueroa on Monday were unsuccessful.

For their services, two of the women received a bit more than $400. The third woman was paid close to $300, police said.

Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, has long denied a report that accused him of partying with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic.

The Daily Caller, a conservative website, first published the report shortly before the November election, citing a video with two women claiming they had sex with Menendez for money.

The three woman identified by police told investigators they made a recording. They first went to a hotel room to do it but later moved to a commercial area with an Internet connection after the connection at the hotel proved inadequate.

“The evidence released today by Dominican law enforcement authorities proves what we have said all along: that the smear campaign against Senator Menendez is based on lies, lies we now know were paid for by interests whose identities have not yet been fully disclosed,” Menendez’s communications director Tricia Enright said in a statement.

She urged authorities in the United States to investigate the case.

Menendez told CNN in January that the claims he’d partied with prostitutes were “absolutely false,” calling the allegations “smears.”

In addition to those claims, Menendez has faced criticism over accepting unreported plane flights and allegedly advocating on behalf of a business.

Questions revolve around the senator’s relationship with Salomon Melgen, a Florida man who owned a plane Menendez admits to having flown on three times to the Dominican Republic in 2010. One flight was on official Senate business, and two others were for personal reasons.

Melgen, his wife, Flor, and his daughter, Melissa, have been generous donors to Menendez, his fellow Democrats and related causes in recent years.

In January, Menendez paid approximately $58,500 to Melgen for the flights he took in 2010, chalking up the lapse in payment to his busy schedule.

“I was in a big travel schedule in 2010 as the chair of the (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), plus my own campaign getting ready for a re-election cycle, and in the process of all of that, it unfortunately fell through the cracks,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash, adding that when it came to his attention that the payment had not been made, he “personally paid” for it in order to meet his obligation.

Menendez has also been in hot water for raising questions before Obama administration officials about a port security contract for a company in which Melgen has a stake. The company had a contract to screen cargo that went through Dominican ports, but Menendez argued last July during a Senate subcommittee hearing that Dominican authorities didn’t want to “live by” the contract.

Asked if he used his influence to help Melgen, Menendez told Bash: “I have always advocated for issues and I have advocated for policies, and that’s what I have done across the board.”

CNN Political Unit, CNN’s Ted Barrett and journalist Diulka Perez contributed to this report.