Menendez challenges FBI probe report

The office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is denying a report that he's under FBI investigation for allegedly helping a pair of fugitive bankers from Ecuador.

NBC 4 New York reported Thursday that the bureau is probing whether the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee pressured the Obama administration to keep brothers William and Roberto Isaias from being expelled back home, where they're wanted for embezzlement. A spokeswoman for Menendez called the allegations “outlandish.”

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“Our office works each year with literally hundreds of individuals and families from across the country who are seeking help with the immigration process,” Menendez's communications director, Tricia Enright, said in an email. “We review each and every request we receive, and if we feel any inquiry is appropriate, we make it. 

“In this particular case, Senator Menendez believed the Isaias family had been politically persecuted in Ecuador, including through the confiscation of media outlets they owned which were critical of the government. We are not aware of any inquiry into the Senator’s actions on this matter.”

The FBI did not reply to a request for comment.

The NBC 4 report cited “multiple current and former U.S, officials” for its claims. A former special agent in charge of the FBI's New Jersey office reportedly told the station that Menendez made calls to the State and Homeland Security departments on behalf of the brothers.

“It's shocking,” Weysan Dun told the station. “I think most people would know and would believe that it'd be appropriate to keep your distance from individuals who are convicted of crimes in their homeland.”

The allegations come one year after reports surfaced that authorities were investigating whether Menendez had improperly lobbied Medicare on behalf of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, a close friend and major campaign donor. Menendez reimbursed Melgen $58,000 last year following revelations that he'd traveled on Melgen's private jet to a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic. Conservative outlets at the time accused Menendez of sleeping with underage prostitutes in the Caribbean island, but those claims did not stand up to scrutiny after his accusers told police they were paid to frame Menendez.

“A year after a false smear campaign was launched against Senator Menendez, once again we see anonymous sources making outlandish allegations,” Enright said Thursday.

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