Family members of Ecuador’s fugitive Isaias brothers appear to have received preferential treatment in the U.S. thanks to political donations to the Democratic Party, The New York Times revealed Tuesday.
Estefania Isaias — the daughter of Roberto Isaias, one of two brothers wanted in Ecuador for bank fraud — had been barred from entering the United States after committing immigration fraud. That ban was lifted thanks to the intervention of high-ranking officials in the U.S. State Department. The lifting of the ban was made possible thanks to the assistance of Robert Menendez, a Democratic Senator.
The New York Times investigation reveals that the office of Menendez lobbied extensively in support of Estefania Isaias, even reaching out to Cheryl Mills, Hilary Clinton’s chief of staff while Clinton was she was U.S. secretary of state. He succeeded in getting Ms. Isaias into the United States and wrote to her to tell her the news a mere day after the Isaias family gave a donation to the Democratic Party.
Estefania's sister Maria also faced a ban on entering the United States and Menendez's office once again worked to intervene in her favor — also after receiving a donation from the Isaias family.
A spokesperson for Menendez told the Times that his office's advocacy in the case of Ms. Isaias was routine. However, Linda Jewell, former U.S. ambassador to Ecuador, told the Times, “Such close and detailed involvement by a congressional office in an individual visa case would be quite unusual, especially for an applicant who is not a constituent of the member of Congress.”
The U.S. newspaper reported that the family donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns, which were often followed by favorable decisions by the U.S. government.
The Isaias brothers, Roberto and William, were found guilty in absentia for a fraud worth US$400 million. They were sentenced to eight years in prison. The Isaias brothers have been living in the United States, fugitives from Ecuadorean justice. The government of Ecuador has requested their extradition but the U.S. government has denied the request.
Ecuador claims that the political donations made by the family is buying them protection in the U.S. However, The New York Times also reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is currently working to have the Isaias brothers deported.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating Senator Menendez for his support of the Isaias brothers. The senator is suspected of attempting to influence immigration officials in exchange for donations from the fugitive brothers.