Dominican Woman Testifies Menendez Helped Her With Visa

Sen. Robert Menendez Kevin B. Sanders for Observer

Before the trial began Monday, Menendez attended a ceremony in nearby West Orange, New Jersey, to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, which killed more than 700 New Jersey residents.

Defense attorneys want to show Menendez's involvement in the visa applications was something he did normally and that the women received visas on merit.

It would have taken the New Jersey senator 30 years to acquire that many points based on the rate he was accumulating them, American Express' VP for Membership Rewards Andrew Thomas testified. Robert Menendez in support of her 2008 visa application, the interviewer wasn't impressed.

Lopes and a handful of other staff members pursued the issue, and a month later the Polanco sisters got a second interview for their visa applications and they were approved.

Mark Lopes, Menendez" former aide, said he was ordered to call the ambassador "asap' to sort out a visa for Brazilian Rosiell Polanco, 22, and her sister so they could visit Dr. Salomon Melgen, 63, over the Christmas holidays in 2008.

"RM does not need to be calling United States ambassadors about stuff like this", former senior staffer Mark Lopes said in an email to another legislative aide, according to prosecutors. Robert Menendez's co-defendant testified Tuesday about how they obtained tourist visas to get to the US and whether the senator was involved in the process.

One of the sisters was described by federal prosecutors as a girlfriend of Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend of Menendez's.

Prosecutors filed a motion with the judge Sunday night seeking to have him limit the amount of evidence the defense can introduce to try to show Menendez's actions alleged in the indictment were similar to others he took as part of his job.

On cross examination, however, Lopes acknowledged that it was common for Menendez to advocate on behalf of visa applicants he knew personally or as constituents or acquaintances.

The Democrat senator also advocated for visas on behalf of lawyer Juliana Lopes Leite and Ukrainian model Svitlana Buchyk who were also dating Melgen, the New York Post reports.

New Jersey senator Robert Menendez once ordered staffers to urgently contact a United States ambassador in order to acquire a visa for his married friend's girlfriend and her sister, a court has heard.

Menendez wrote a letter in support of Polanco's tourist visa application, the court was told, and after it was dismissed he asked to speak with the ambassador directly.

Prosecutors claimed that Menendez induced Melgen to book the room and then made an empty promise to pay him back in AmEx points.

Brown in particular tangled with Walls at length, raising concerns that the prosecution would likely later use evidence from Lopes' email exchanges against the senator during closing arguments if the defense was not allowed to rebut with evidence of their own on Monday. The grill cost him 134,328 points - almost all he had, and a fraction of the 649,611 points it cost Melgen to book the hotel room.



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