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Dominican woman recants sex claims on Senator Menendez, lawyer says

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) speaks at a news conference after opponents blocked passage of the "Dream Act" at the U.S. Capitol in Wa
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) speaks at a news conference after opponents blocked passage of the "Dream Act" at the U.S. Capitol in Wa

SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - A Dominican woman who previously stated in a video that she was paid to have sex with Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey now says the allegations were false, according to a sworn statement released by a lawyer on Monday.

The notarized affidavit was distributed by a prominent Dominican lawyer and friend of Menendez, Vinicio Castillo, who said it had been handed over to prosecutors. Castillo is not acting as the lawyer to the woman.

In her sworn statement, the woman, Nexis de los Santos Santana, denied ever meeting Menendez and said she never agreed to be filmed.

Menendez, a Cuban-American Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, won re-election to a second term last year. He has repeatedly denied the sex claims, calling them "politically motivated" smears.

Asked on Monday night about the affidavit, a spokeswoman for the senator declined to comment. The affidavit was first reported by the Washington Post.

Unsubstantiated reports, first published on the conservative Daily Caller website, alleged that Salomon Melgen, a Dominican-born Florida doctor, provided Menendez with free trips aboard his private plane to the Dominican Republic where Menendez allegedly engaged in sex with underage prostitutes.

The original videotaped interview with the woman features her saying that Menendez paid her for sex and that she was cheated out of the full amount he had agreed to pay.

But according to the affidavit released on Monday, the woman now says she was paid to read from a prepared text and was videotaped without her consent.

In January, FBI agents searched Melgen's South Florida office. The FBI did not explain the motive for the raid on the offices of Melgen, 58, saying only that it was "conducting law enforcement activity" in the vicinity of the medical-office complex where Melgen's West Palm Beach eye clinic is located.

At the time, Melgen did not respond to a request for comment. Menendez's office said Melgen "has been a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years."

(Reporting by Manuel Jimenez in Santo Domingo, Kevin Gray in Miami and Edith Honan in New York; Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Walsh)

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