Things to do for a busy US senator: “Cuba policy,” “Afghanistan” — and getting visas for a married pal’s Dominican bombshell girlfriend and her sister.
An ex-aide to Robert Menendez told Newark federal jurors Monday that the senator ordered him to call a US ambassador “asap” on behalf of Rosiell Polanco, a 22-year-old stunner who needed a tourist visa to visit the senator’s wealthy West Palm Beach friend for the Christmas holiday.
“Call Ambassador asap,” Menendez told Mark Lopes, his former senior policy adviser, in a November 2008 email that was shown to jurors.
Menendez and Dr. Salomon Melgen, 63, are on trial on charges that the senator did official favors for the ophthalmologist in exchange for lavish gifts, including all-expense-paid vacations and $750,000 in campaign contributions.
In exchange, Menendez advocated for his married pal’s professional and personal affairs, including help securing visas for three of his foreign flings, prosecutors have said.
The Garden State pol also pressed for visas for Brazilian beauty-turned-lawyer Juliana Lopes Leite and Ukrainian model Svitlana Buchyk, prosecutors have said.
On Monday, the feds introduced a series of emails between Lopes, Mendez, other staffers and Melgen discussing how best to tackle the Polanco visa issue. One of the subject lines read: “Dr. Melgen’s request.”
Prosecutors also introduced one of Lopes’ weekly staff reports showing that he placed the “Melgen visa inquiry” on a status report to the senator — alongside global issues like “Cuba Policy” and a “Pakistan/Afghanistan meeting.”
The veteran Democrat wrote a letter of support for Polanco and her sister before their visa interview — but the letter was dismissed by a consular official. That’s when Menendez stepped it up and said he wanted to speak to the ambassador directly, the former senior staffer testified.
“Do US ambassadors usually get involved in visa applications?” prosecutor Joseph Patrick Cooney asked Lopes, who is now United States executive director at Inter-American Development Bank.
“Only if US senators advocate on their behalf,” Lopes said. “He wanted to be proactive about advocating for the outcome that he sought and didn’t want to wait for a response.”
A month after the visa request for Polanco was rejected, she and her sister were re-interviewed by an official who ultimately allowed them.
“In my view, this is ONLY DUE to the fact that RM intervened,” Lopes wrote in an email praising his then-boss.
On Monday, the feds also introduced documents showing that Mendedez used Lopes to intercede on behalf of the Brazilian with a similar letter of support. Only Lopes Leite’s application was immediately approved, with a staffer at the Brazilian embassy touting her as the “perfect student visa case,” documents showed.
Menendez’s lawyers have conceded that the senator intervened on his pal’s behalf but insist it was due to their decades-long friendship — not in exchange for bribes.
Melgen’s lawyers have begged the jury to ignore the doctor’s many affairs, saying they have nothing to do with the case.
“You are not here to judge his personal life,” lawyer Kirk Ogrosky told the jury in opening remarks last week.
By Kaja Whitehouse http://nypost.com/