Senator Robert "Sanction the hell out of Iran" Menendez (D-NJ) is on the receiving end of a widening federal investigation into his dealings with a pair of Ecuadorian bankers who fled to the United States after their bank collapsed. The brothers currently live in Florida, where they're working hard to make lots more money while allegedly greasing the palms of friendly Senators who might help them avoid extradition.
The Department of Justice is investigating Menendez's efforts on behalf of two fugitive bankers from Ecuador, multiple current and former U.S, officials tell NBC 4 New York. The probe into Menendez’s dealing with the bankers comes as federal authorities are also investigating his relationship to a big campaign donor from Florida.
The criminal investigation is focusing in part on the senator’s ties to William and Roberto Isaias and whether the senator crossed a line in trying to help the two brothers stay in the United States.
The Isaias brothers have been fugitives from their native Ecuador for more than a decade -- sentenced in absentia for embezzling millions as the bank they ran there was collapsing.
The Isaias brothers now live in Coral Gables, Fla., running several successful businesses, and they have never been charged in the U.S. But back home in Ecuador, they’re wanted men.
Back in the 1990s, outraged Ecuadorians took to the streets demanding their money back after several banks collapsed including the country’s largest, Filanbanco, which had been run by the Isaias brothers.
It seems that Senator Menendez believes the brothers were unfairly persecuted, and believed so fervently that he intervened with the Department of Homeland Security to encourage them to speed up their review back in 2012. Coincidentally, or maybe not, Menendez received a nice fat campaign contribution and the Democrats got around $100,000 from United States citizens who just happened to be relatives of the two brothers.
But really, according to Menendez, it's just persecution, because bankers are the guys everyone loves to hate, and he was just acting on their behalf because...why? They live in Coral Gables, Florida. He's a Senator from New Jersey. What possible interest could he have in their quest to avoid extradition? Here's his side:
"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," said the spokeswoman, Tricia Enright. "We are not aware of any inquiry into the Senator’s actions on this matter."
Based on the amount of enforcement activity we're seeing around campaign finance, I wouldn't hold my breath about how that claim will play. If the feds can link up donations funneled from the brothers to family to Menendez, he'll be as toasty as Dinesh D'Souza.