WASHINGTON — An escort who appeared on a video claiming that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., paid her for sex has told Dominican authorities that she was instead paid to make up the claims and has never met or seen the senator, according to court documents and two people briefed on her claim.
The woman said a local lawyer had approached her and a fellow escort and asked them to help frame Menendez and a top donor, Salomon Melgen, according to affidavits obtained by the Washington Post.
That lawyer has in turn identified a second Dominican lawyer who he said gave the woman a script and paid her to read the claims aloud. The first lawyer said he found out only later that the remarks would be videotaped and used against Menendez, the affidavits say.
The escort was one of two women whose claims initially seemed to confirm a tipster's allegations that Menendez had patronized prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. The tipster, who last spring began emailing allegations to a government watchdog group and the FBI, said he had evidence that Menendez was frequenting underage prostitutes and participating in sex parties arranged by Melgen, his friend and political backer.
FBI agents conducting interviews in the Dominican Republic have found no evidence to back up the tipster's allegations, two people briefed on their work told the Washington Post.
Menendez has denied the prostitution claims, saying they were made by enemies trying to undermine him as he sought re-election in the fall and became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this year.
Menendez said Monday he didn't know the details of the two new statements.