Senator Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has denied he engaged in any sexual activity with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic, despite reports of e-mails showing that an FBI inquiry examined the possibility that Menendez may have allegedly had sex with two underage prostitutes at a wealthy donor’s house in the Dominican Republic.
That donor, Salamon Melgen, is at the center of an FBI investigation; Melgen’s Florida office was raided by the FBI on Tuesday.
Prostitution is legal in the Dominican Republic, but human trafficking remains illegal in the country. An American national could receive up to 30 years in prison if he is found guilty of having sex with a minor in a foreign country. According to Refworld:
The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Reports indicate that Dominican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking throughout the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and the United States. Additionally, child sex tourism is a problem, particularly in coastal resort areas of the Dominican Republic, with child sex tourists arriving year-round from the United States and European countries.
Steven Cass of Breaking Chains, an American Christian organization that travels to foreign countries to help victims of child sex trafficking escape their captors, told Breitbart News that “underage girls are delivered to houses and hotels regularly in the DR.” Cass added, “We witnessed it on many, many occasions.”
“We were there last year working in two cities and what we found was that minors were readily available inside bars and on the street looking for tourists. A lot was going on during the day on the beaches,” Cass explained. “Men or boys would approach us and say, ‘Hey, are you looking for girls?’ And they would be able to deliver child or adult prostitutes to your house or hotel.”
Breaking Chains worked briefly in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.
“We were flying in and out of Santo Domingo and we went into the zone there,” he said. “We actually went in and worked out of the hotel that had the largest casino. Within minutes we were approached by a taxi driver who took us directly to a clandestine brothel where kids were available.”
According to Cass, a high net worth person that is worried about hiding their identity would use a middle person like a child or “a taxi driver or someone to go out on the street and find the minors for them”
“That’s what we did to find the victims. We were approached on the beach. We gave them twenty dollars and said we were looking for kids. ‘You guys go find them. When you have them. Call us, and we’ll come meet you.’ And that’s exactly what they did. If I was a wealthy person trying to hide my identity, we wouldn’t have gone to the minors direct. We would have had those kids deliver the girls to a hotel.”
Cass said that the majority of the sex tourists he saw in the DR were men aged 60 to 80-years old who were either from the United States or Canada.
Most of the work Cass and his organization did in the Dominican Republic was with natives. “Usually, prostitution in the Dominican Republic is poverty driven. There’s a lack of jobs, particularly for women. There’s no money to provide for the family, so in many cases, the parents are sending their own kids out,” he said. “We did work in one city where girls were being brought in from Europe, particularly Russia and Slovenia. We believe those girls there are being held against their will.”