By EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A Dominican prosecutor said Friday that a local attorney told him someone claiming to work for the conservative website The Daily Caller paid him to find prostitutes who would lie about having sex with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
Jose Polanco told The Associated Press that attorney Melanio Figueroa said he was promised $5,000 by someone named “Carlos” to find prostitutes. Polanco said Figueroa told him in an interrogation late Thursday that he was only paid $2,000 after finding the prostitutes.
Daily Caller Editor Tucker Carlson categorically denied the allegations in a statement Friday.
“It seems clear to me Figueroa is under pressure to change his story,” he said. “What I know for certain is this claim is a lie. The Daily Caller never paid anyone, was never asked to pay anyone and of course never would pay anyone for this story.”
Polanco said authorities will review footage from surveillance cameras in areas where the man identified as Carlos supposedly met with Figueroa to try to identify him. He said Figueroa described the man as tall and white, with brown eyes and brown hair and between 28 and 34 years old. Polanco originally said the man had blue eyes but later corrected his statement.
The announcement comes days after police said the prostitutes lied about having sex with Menendez. Police spokesman Maximo Baez has said the women were hired by a Dominican attorney to make videotaped statements. Two of the women received about $425 and the other was paid about $300, he said.
Police are still investigating the source of the allegations that Menendez had sex with prostitutes while in the Dominican Republic with his friend and campaign contributor, Dr. Salomon Melgen, a south Florida doctor, and with Vinicio Castillo Seman, an attorney whose family is politically prominent in the Dominican Republic.
Menendez and Castillo, who is Melgen’s cousin, have denied hiring prostitutes.
Two of the videotaped interviews with the women were published on The Daily Caller’s website as Menendez ran for re-election in November. Federal agents later searched Melgen’s office, and the senator was compelled to reimburse $58,000 for two flights on Melgen’s private jet for trips to the Dominican Republic.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a Miami federal grand jury is investigating Menendez for his role in advocating for Melgen’s business interests.
A spokeswoman for Menendez, Tricia Enright, didn’t respond to a question about whether the senator is under a grand jury investigation but issued a statement saying, “We welcome any review because Senator Menendez’s actions have always been appropriate, and we believe the facts will confirm that.”
Associated Press writer Stephen Braun in Washington D.C. contributed to this report