Testimony in Dem Senator Menendez trial alleges he provided visa help to Democrat donor’s girlfriends
And one expensive grill
Monday marked Day 3 in the trial of New Jersey Democratic Senator Menendez. Menendez was charged with corruption for allegedly using his office to dole out favors for wealthy Democratic donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen in exchange for campaign cash.
A former aid to Sen. Menendez testified Monday, alleging Sen. Menendez wrote a letter on behalf of a 22-year-old girlfriend of Dr. Melgen, her sister and two other girlfriends of Dr. Melgen’s in an effort to assist her with her visa application. The third girlfriend was not mentioned in Monday’s testimony.
When one of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen’s girlfriends handed her interviewer at the U.S. consulate in the Dominican Republic a letter from U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez in support of her 2008 visa application, the interviewer wasn’t impressed.
“He looked at it briefly and he said, ‘sorry but this does me no good … unfortunately, we are the ones who decide whether or not someone is qualified for a visa’” the then-22-year-old girlfriend, Rosiell Polanco, recounted to the 63-year-old Melgen in Spanish, according to translated emails read aloud in court on Monday. ‘And with that, he ended the interview.’”
Melgen soon informed Menendez the visa application for Polanco, as well as one for her sister, were denied. But Menendez didn’t give up. His senior adviser, Mark Lopes, told him he was working on a follow-up letter to the consul general.
Would the senator like to wait for that letter, Lopes asked, or call the embassy ASAP?
“Call ambassador ASAP,” Menendez wrote back, according to emails entered into evidence on Monday.
Within weeks, the sisters had another interview. Weeks after that, Lopez got word their visa applications had been approved.
“In my view, this was only due to the fact that (Robert Menendez) intervened,” Lopes wrote to Menendez’s then-chief of staff, Danny O’Brien, adding that he would tell Menendez.
Also revealed — Menendez owns one expensive grill. Prosecutors allege Menendez intended to pay Melgen back in American Express card points after Melgen used his Amex points to foot the bill for a $1,500 per night hotel in Paris. As evidence to the contrary, the defense showed a 2013 Amex statement showing Menendez cashed out his 135,000 points to buy a grill.
ABC News reports:
Earlier Monday, a vice president for American Express testified Melgen used about 650,000 AmEx points to pay for a Paris hotel room for Menendez in 2010. Menendez had about 58,000 points in his AmEx account at the time, and prosecutors want to show he tapped his wealthy friend in order to stay in a $1,500-per-night hotel as part of the bribery scheme.
Defense attorneys have said Menendez planned to give Melgen the points back, but prosecutors introduced Menendez’s AmEx bill to show that in 2013, he used nearly all of his 135,000 points to buy a barbecue grill.
Just how confident is the defense, you ask? The attorney for Dr. Melgen, Kirk Ogrosky, began by accusing prosecutors of attacking Hispanic-Americans. The judge then warned attorneys not to turn the trial into “tabloid trash”. Safe to say they know they’re screwed.
Last week, Menendez’s request for breaks in the trial so he would be able to scoot down to D.C. to cast votes was denied by a federal judge.
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