Two maids allege that FBI agents from Miami tried to brow-beat them into making incriminating statements against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, during questioning about alleged sex parties at the Dominican Republic resort home of a South Florida doctor who hosted Menendez numerous times.
The maids, both employees of Dr. Salomon Melgen, have asked the Dominican National Police to investigate the FBI’s interrogation of them, saying they were illegally detained and felt threatened during the interviews in February in La Romana.
The maids’ allegations were contained in written affidavits submitted to police on March 6. About two weeks later, Dominican police said that a Santo Domingo lawyer had paid three women to falsely claim on video camera last year that they had sex with Menendez in a possible smear campaign.
One of the housekeepers who works in Melgen’s Casa de Campo villa asserted she was questioned by two FBI agents from Miami about the senator’s visits. “The questions posed to her were directed at forcing her to admit” that Menendez “participated in parties with women or prostitutes” at the doctor’s vacation home, according to her written accusation.
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Rosa de Jesus Acosta, who was arrested Feb. 22 by Dominican officers at her La Romana apartment for FBI questioning at the local police station, “stated such statements were lies,” according to the affidavit.
“She stated that on the occasions that Mr. Menendez had visited the doctor’s villa, he only played golf and spent most of the time alone, reading and resting,” the documents said. “Despite her reiteration of this, on more than one occasion the agents pressured her psychologically by stating that she could be jailed if she did not say what they expected.”
Added the second maid, Mirian Rivera: “She could tell that the interrogators did not like her responses. As it was with her co-worker, the agents attempted to scare her. She responded with the truth.”
Their declarations –– the first independent confirmation that the FBI has been investigating allegations that the New Jersey Democrat was involved with prostitutes — were the latest twist in the scandal that has engulfed Menendez and his close friend, Melgen, in recent months.
Last month, Dominican police said Santo Domingo attorney Melanio Figueroa paid three women between $300 and $425 each to record interviews in October, saying they were hookers who had had sex with a man named “Bob.’’
Two of those videotaped interviews might have been published by conservative news website The Daily Caller just before the November elections. The women, whose faces were blurred out to conceal their identities, claimed to have been paid as escorts for sex with “Bob.”
The police announcement provided the strongest evidence yet contradicting accusations that Menendez flew in the doctor’s private plane to the Dominican Republic for sex parties at his vacation home. The prominent Palm Beach County eye doctor has been a major donor to Menendez and other politicians.
News of the housekeepers’ allegations that the FBI violated their rights surfaced last weekend, when the Dominican Republic’s director of government ethics and integrity disclosed that both maids had been interrogated by U.S. federal agents at the police station.
The senior government official, Marino Vinicio Castillo, a longtime friend of Melgen’s family, said on his public affairs program, La Respuesta, that the FBI questioning was done without a court order or local official present. The maids did not have lawyers with them.
A spokesman for the FBI’s Miami field office declined to comment on the existence of an investigation or the maids’ complaint.
“However, in general, if anyone has a grievance about any of our employees, they can contact any FBI field office to register a complaint,” FBI special agent Mike Leverock said.
By policy, the FBI has no authority to conduct investigations in a foreign country without the approval of the host government. In recent history, the Dominican Republic has been extremely helpful to U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Menendez’s office declined to comment for this story. Last month, his office was quick to highlight the police findings about the alleged prostitutes being paid to lie, saying the evidence “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 continues to face questions about wielding political influence to help Melgen’s Dominican business interests, including a port security contract, and the doctor’s multimillion-dollar billing disputes with Medicare, the U.S. healthcare program. A Miami federal grand jury, directed by the Justice Department, is investigating those claims.
Meanwhile, agents with the FBI and Health and Human Services Department are investigating whether the West Palm Beach eye doctor broke the law when he charged Medicare to treat patients for services that may have been unnecessary.
The allegations about the sex parties at Melgen’s Casa de Campo residence were initiated in anonymous emails by a tipster going by the name “Peter Williams.” Those claims fueled the FBI’s investigation.
Melgen’s defense attorney, Kirk Ogrosky, a former federal prosecutor now with the Washington, D.C., law firm, Arnold & Porter, condemned the FBI’s handling of the interrogation of his client’s two Dominican housekeepers.
“The FBI’s tactics in the Dominican Republic are not only illegal, but are also an appalling misuse of authority,” Ogrosky said in an interview Tuesday.