Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 27, 2014

Menendez Aides’ Spectacular Run of Bad Headlines

Updated: 5:24 p.m. | It’s been a brutal year for alumni of New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez’s operation.

Unpaid intern Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, a registered sex offender, is the latest to run afoul of the law, landing on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s radar over an expired visa.

The Department of Homeland Security is now disputing reports that the agency held off on pursuing the 18-year-old Peruvian immigrant until after the elections.

“The report is categorically false. ICE followed standard process in coordination with its federal partners and local prosecutors before taking appropriate enforcement action,” DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said.

The Zavaleta scandal comes on the heels of recent reports chronicling the arrests of Menendez aides David M. Gins and Yasmin Malhotra for clumsily snatching GOP campaign signs and dealing prescription drugs, respectively.

Repeated attempts by HOH to reach Menendez for comment about the Zavaleta situation went unanswered.

Updated: 5:24 p.m.

Menendez spokeswoman Patricia Enright offered the following explanation for the suspect hiring and the senator’s reaction to the arrest.

“Luis Sanchez was an unpaid college intern in our Newark office for approximately two months. No staff member responsible for managing the internship program had reason to believe, based on their interview process, that Sanchez had any criminal background or immigration issues. Clearly, Mr. Sanchez sought to deceive our staff. Upon notification from authorities of his arrest, Mr. Sanchez’s relationship with our office immediately ended,” she told HOH via email.

“Sen. Menendez was briefed on the situation today — and he is appalled. He has no tolerance for those who violate the law and expects the authorities to continue to prosecute the case,” Enright asserted. “Sen. Menendez believes this incident underscores the reason we need comprehensive immigration reform that provides zero tolerance for those who have criminal records.”

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