The brother of Jeff Bezos’s girlfriend has filed a lawsuit accusing Mr. Bezos and his security consultant of defaming him in connection with a 2019 National Enquirer story revealing Mr. Bezos’s extramarital affair.
Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent manager and the brother of Lauren Sanchez, said in his lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in state court in Los Angeles, that Mr. Bezos and Gavin de Becker, the consultant, had falsely told journalists that he had leaked “graphic, nude photographs” of Mr. Bezos to The Enquirer.
Among its other claims, Mr. Sanchez’s suit says Ms. Sanchez and Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world’s richest man, kept their affair secret on the advice of a psychic. Mr. Sanchez also said his home was searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Enquirer story, published online on Jan. 9, 2019, contained reproductions of text messages from Mr. Bezos to Ms. Sanchez. The tabloid later claimed to have photos of Mr. Bezos in various states of undress, but did not publish them.
The lawsuit accuses Mr. Bezos and Mr. de Becker of spreading what it calls “the false narrative” that Mr. Sanchez had betrayed his sister by peddling the story to The Enquirer.
A lawyer for Mr. Bezos, William Isaacson, said his client “has chosen to address this lawsuit in court and we will do that soon.” Mr. de Becker declined to comment.
In a statement provided by her lawyer, Terry Bird, Lauren Sanchez said, “Michael is my older brother. He secretly provided my most personal information to The National Enquirer — a deep and unforgivable betrayal. My family is hurting over this new baseless and untrue lawsuit, and we truly hope my brother finds peace.”
A lawyer for Mr. Sanchez, Enoch Liang, said in a statement that the lawsuit “speaks for itself.”
Mr. Sanchez’s assertions contain apparent inconsistencies. Mr. Bezos and Mr. de Becker, who investigated how The Enquirer got its exposé, have not publicly accused Mr. Sanchez of leaking photographs to the tabloid.
Instead, Mr. Bezos hinted in a blog post last February that materials relevant to the story made their way to The Enquirer through a hacking of his phone by Saudi Arabia, which has denied any role in the exposé.
Mr. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, suggested that the Saudis had been angry over the newspaper’s coverage of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and columnist for The Post who was murdered by Saudi assassins weeks after writing critically of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the paper. Mr. Bezos also cited the wooing of Prince Mohammed by David J. Pecker, the chief executive of American Media, the publisher of The Enquirer, who was seeking Saudi investment in the company.
Last month, the results of a forensic analysis commissioned by Mr. Bezos became public. It concluded with “medium to high confidence” that the Amazon founder’s iPhone X had been hacked after he received a video from a WhatsApp message sent to him from an account reportedly belonging to the Saudi crown prince, with whom the billionaire had swapped contacts at a Los Angeles dinner. The analysis did not reveal a Saudi connection to the materials obtained by The Enquirer.
American Media said in a statement last month that Mr. Sanchez was the “single source” for the exposé.
According to an October 2018 contract reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Sanchez granted American Media the right to publish and license text messages and photographs “documenting an affair between Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez” in exchange for $200,000. In his lawsuit, Mr. Sanchez did not address whether he had provided text messages or photographs, or whether he was compensated by the tabloid.
When federal agents and prosecutors examined allegations of wrongdoing in connection with The Enquirer’s handling of the story, American Media gave them evidence showing that Mr. Sanchez had obtained text messages and photos of Mr. Bezos from his sister, four people with knowledge of the matter told The Times.
In his blog post last year, Mr. Bezos quoted emails sent to Mr. de Becker’s lawyer by an American Media lawyer and a company executive, who wrote that “the photos obtained during our news gathering” included a nude “below-the-belt selfie.” American Media said in the emails that it would refrain from publishing the photographs if Mr. Bezos said publicly that he believed the exposé was not politically motivated. (The Enquirer had been a booster of President Trump, who was at odds with Mr. Bezos.)
After Mr. Bezos accused American Media of trying to extort him with the unpublished materials, which the company denied, federal prosecutors began looking into the matter.
The company had months earlier avoided prosecution for having paid a former Playboy model, in coordination with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, for the exclusive rights to her story of an affair with Mr. Trump, a story that was suppressed by the tabloid. The company agreed not to break the law again or face consequences. Prosecutors have not taken any action related to the Bezos article.
Mr. Sanchez in his lawsuit acknowledged engaging with The Enquirer, but said he did so to protect his sister and Mr. Bezos.
According to the suit, the two started an affair in 2017, while Mr. Bezos was still married to MacKenzie Bezos, a novelist who was Amazon’s first accountant. After Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez “were guided in their decision to keep their relationship hidden by a psychic in New Mexico,” Mr. Sanchez’s lawyers wrote, Mr. Sanchez “was instrumental in covering up first, the existence, and second, the timing of the affair.”
Eventually, Mr. Sanchez’s lawsuit said, he tried to “get ahead of the story,” entering into a nondisclosure agreement with American Media. By his account, he “agreed to corroborate the existence of the relationship under conditions that would help Mr. Sanchez manage the timing of the story and the way in which the affair was portrayed.”
Karen Weise and William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.