Menendez accused of brazen bribery plot, taking cash and gold

This image provided by the U.S. Attorney's office, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, in New York, shows two of the gold bars found during a search by federal agents of Sen. Bob Menendez's home and safe deposit box. Menendez of New Jersey and his wife were indicted Friday on charges that they took bribes of cash, gold bars and a luxury car for a range of corrupt acts, including having the Democrat use his influence over foreign affairs to benefit the authoritarian government of Egypt. (U.S. Attorney's Office via AP)

This photo, which was included in an indictment of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), shows a jacket bearing Menendez's name, along with cash from envelops found inside the Jacket during a search by federal agents of the senator's home in Harrison, N.J., in 2022. Federal prosecutors announced charges of bribery against Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. Additional information on the jacket was redacted by the source. (U.S. Attorney's Office via AP)

Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the Democratic chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was charged Friday with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, including bars of gold bullion, to wield his power abroad and at home.

The three-count federal indictment depicts a brazen plan hatched during furtive dinners, in text messages and on encrypted calls — much of it aimed at increasing U.S. assistance to Egypt and aiding businessmen in New Jersey.


Menendez’s wife, Nadine, is accused of acting as a go-between, passing messages to an American Egyptian businessman, Wael Hana, who maintained close connections with Egyptian military and intelligence officials, the indictment said. In one text, to an Egyptian general, Hana referred to the senator, who held sway over military sales, financing and other aid, as “our man.”

Menendez, in a strongly worded rebuke to prosecutors, said he was confident the matter would be “successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented.”

Friday’s charges depict an intermingling of the bare-knuckle, backroom dealings of Menendez’s home state of New Jersey and delicate matters of security in the Middle East. They represent the latest episode in a decadeslong political career that took Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, from the Union City, New Jersey, school board to the halls of the Senate, a career marked by accusations of corruption and an earlier federal indictment that ended in a hung jury.

The new charges threaten Menendez’s vast political power, as well as his freedom.

Early Friday evening, New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy, a close Democratic ally, called on Menendez to resign, an admonition that unleashed a torrent of similar messages from political leaders throughout the state.

Not long beforehand, Menendez sent a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., informing him that he was stepping down as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, as required by rules the Senate Democrats adopted to govern themselves.

“Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey,” Schumer said in a statement. “He has a right to due process and a fair trial.”

The corruption scheme, according to the indictment, extended beyond foreign aid. Menendez is accused of using his official position to influence criminal investigations of two other New Jersey businessmen, one of whom was a longtime fundraiser for Menendez.

Toward that end, the senator recommended that President Joe Biden nominate a lawyer, Philip Sellinger, to be U.S. attorney for New Jersey because Menendez believed he could influence Sellinger’s prosecution of the fundraiser, the indictment said. Sellinger, who was ultimately confirmed for the post, did not bend, prosecutors said.

Menendez is also accused of meddling in an investigation by the New Jersey attorney general’s office, using “advice and pressure” in an attempt to persuade a senior prosecutor to go easy in the case of two associates of a man who later gave Nadine Menendez a Mercedes-Benz convertible. The prosecutor considered Bob Menendez’s actions “inappropriate and did not agree to intervene,” according to the indictment.

In exchange for all those actions, the indictment said, the Menendezes accepted cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, the luxury car and other valuable things. The day after a trip to Egypt in 2021, the indictment said, Bob Menendez asked in an internet query “how much is one kilo of gold worth.”

Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference announcing the charges that Menendez’s actions were meant to serve a favored few.

The prosecutor said Menendez’s Senate website explicitly detailed the kinds of services he would not provide because they would be improper, among them influencing private business matters and intervening in judicial issues and criminal trials.

“Constituent service is part of any legislator’s job — Sen. Menendez is no different,” Williams said. But, he added, “Behind the scenes, Sen. Menendez was doing those things for certain people — the people who were bribing him and his wife.”

Soon after the news conference, Menendez issued an angry page-long denunciation of the charges, blaming them on unnamed “forces behind the scenes” that have “repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave.”

“The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent,” he added. “They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office. On top of that, not content with making false claims against me, they have attacked my wife for the long-standing friendships she had before she and I even met.”

Nadine Menendez’s lawyer, David Schertler, said his client broken no laws.

“Mrs. Menendez denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these charges in court,” Schertler said.

The charges against Bob Menendez, 69, and the others follow a lengthy investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and they come nearly six years after his trial on unrelated claims of corruption ended with a hung jury.

James Smith, who heads the New York FBI office, said Friday that the conduct that was detailed in the indictment “damages the public’s faith in our system of government and brings undue scorn to the honest and dedicated public servants who carry out their duties on a daily basis.”

The businessmen named in the indictment, which was unsealed in Manhattan federal court, are Hana, a longtime friend of Nadine Menendez’s who founded a halal meat certification business; Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer and fundraiser for Bob Menendez; and Jose Uribe, who works in trucking and insurance.

Daibes, 66, who pleaded guilty last year to making false entries in connection with a $1.8 million loan document, is among a small group of New Jersey builders responsible for converting parts of the polluted Hudson River waterfront into a bustling hive of residential and commercial activity.

The 39-page indictment charges the Menendezes and the businessmen with conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. It also charges the Menendezes with conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of official right, meaning that they used his official position to force someone to give them something of value.


According to the indictment, Nadine Menendez at one point bragged that her actions would make Hana “more powerful than the president of Egypt.”

In 2018, Nadine Menendez, 56, and Hana arranged meetings and dinners with Egyptian officials and Bob Menendez, whom she had just begun dating. During the meetings, the Egyptian officials raised requests related to foreign military sales and financing, among other things. In return for Bob Menendez’s promise that he would use his authority to facilitate such sales, the indictment says, Hana promised to put Nadine Menendez on the payroll of his company in a job for which she would perform little or no work.

After one meeting with Egyptian officials, Bob Menendez asked for and obtained from the State Department nonpublic information regarding the number and nationality of people serving at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, the indictment says. It notes that such information is considered highly sensitive and could pose significant security concerns if disclosed.

Without telling his staff or the State Department, Bob Menendez texted the information to Nadine Menendez, who forwarded the message to Hana. He then sent it to an Egyptian government official, the indictment says.

At a dinner about the same time, Bob Menendez disclosed to Hana other nonpublic information about the United States’ military aid to Egypt, the indictment says. Shortly after the dinner, Hana texted another Egyptian official: “The ban on small arms and ammunition to Egypt has been lifted. That means sales can begin. That will include sniper rifles among other articles.”

Hana started operating his company, IS EG Halal, in 2019, and within a year, the Egyptian government had made it the sole entity authorized to certify that halal meat imported to Egypt from anywhere in the world had been prepared according to Islamic law. Before that, at least four companies in the United States were authorized to make that certification.

The indictment says the company was used to advance the corrupt scheme by “providing a revenue stream” from which Hana “could make good on the bribe payments he had promised” the senator through Nadine Menendez.

During a search of the couple’s home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and a safe deposit box in Nadine Menendez’s name, investigators found $550,000 in cash, much of it hidden in clothing, closets and a safe. Some of the cash was stuffed in envelopes that contained the fingerprints or DNA of Daibes or his driver, who was not named.

Investigators also found more than $100,000 worth of gold bars, some of which were featured in photographs in the indictment.


The Menendezes and their three co-defendants are expected to appear in Manhattan federal court Wednesday, according to Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for the Southern District.

The charges are not the senator’s first encounter with the law. In 2015, Menendez was indicted in New Jersey on bribery charges in what federal prosecutors called a scheme between the senator and a wealthy eye doctor to trade political favors for gifts worth close to $1 million, including luxury vacations in the Caribbean and campaign contributions. Menendez’s corruption trial ended in a mistrial in November 2017, after the jury said it was unable to reach a verdict.

The judge later acquitted Menendez of several charges and the Justice Department dismissed the others.

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