The Department of Justice is launching an investigation to determine whether New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez helped a duo of fugitive Ecuadorian bankers remain in the United States in exchange for campaign funds, according to a special report by NBC News.
William and Roberto Isaias are accused of embezzling $100 million dollars and fleeing to the United States after their bank collapsed, and became the focal point for many far-left politicians looking to gain electoral advances on a wealth redistribution platform. Both brothers were sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison in Ecuador, and their affiliates to similar terms in prison. Interpol has issued a warrant for the brothers, though they are untouchable so long as the United States does not hand them over.
Upon being caught embezzling funds, the brothers fled to South Florida, where they have lived since the 1990s. Multiple officials told NBC News that among the reasons the United States has yet to extradite the Isaiases is that they had at least one powerful United States official on their side: Senator Menendez.
Menendez, a Democrat, was already under investigation for his relationship to a prominent campaign donor in Florida. He has previously come under fire for advocating for business deals for Salomon Melgen, a Dominican doctor and ally of the Senator. Dr. Melgen was also the other subject of an investigation into whether Sen. Menendez had solicited the services of underaged prostitutes while visiting Dr. Melgen’s home in the Dominican Republic.
This second investigation into Sen. Menendez involves the senator’s advocacy to help the Isaias brothers remain in the United States. Menendez is said to have made several phone calls and sent letters to high-ranking Homeland Security officials calling for the agencies to speed up the immigration process for the brothers. The Department of Justice, according to NBC, wants to know whether Menendez was compensated in some capacity for his advocacy. Records confirm that, if not the brothers directly (as they are not U.S. citizens), members of their family donated $10,000 to Menendez’s 2012 Senate campaign and more than $100,000 to the Democratic Party in 2012.
A spokesperson for Sen. Menendez told NBC that the brothers had been “politically persecuted in Ecuador” and advocated for them for that reason and that they were among the “literally hundreds” of others for whom Sen. Menendez advocates. This, she insisted, was another case of “anonymous sources making outlandish allegations,” possibly alluding to the prostitution scandal that erupted last year. The spokesperson also said that the senator’s office had not heard from investigators yet, though multiple sources refute that claim in the NBC News report. Officially, the U.S. Attorney’s office also refused to “[n]either confirm nor deny” the investigation, as is their policy.