Senator Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Arslanian Menendez were indicted on federal bribery charges today. At a morning announcement, Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that Menendez, who is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the senior US Senator from New Jersey, and his wife allegedly engaged in corrupt relationships with three New Jersey businessmen: Fred Daibes, Wael Hana, and Jose Uribe.
The indictment alleges that Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for Menendez using his power and influence to protect and to enrich the three men and to benefit the government of Egypt. The bribes came in the form of cash, gold, home mortgage payments, a Mercedes Benz and a low-show or no-show job for Nadine Menendez, the indictment alleges.
Williams said Menendez took several actions as part of this “corrupt relationship.”
First, the indictment alleges that Sen. Menendez used his power and influence, including his leadership role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to benefit the government of Egypt. Among the actions, Williams said, “Menendez allegedly provided sensitive, non-public US government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the government of Egypt.”
The indictment also alleges that Menendez improperly pressured a senior official at the US Department of Agriculture to protect a lucrative monopoly that the government of Egypt had awarded to Hana: “A lucrative monopoly that Hana [allegedly] used to fund certain bribe payments,” Williams said.
Second, the indictment alleges that Menendez used his power and influence to try and disrupt a criminal investigation and prosecution undertaken by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office related to an associate and relative of Uribe.
Third, the indictment alleges that Sen. Menendez used his power and influence to try and disrupt a federal prosecution of Daibes in the US Attorney General’s office, district of New Jersey, in two ways: by seeking to install a US Attorney whom Menendez thought could be influenced with respect to Daibes, and by trying to influence that office to act favorably in Daibes’ case.
“As we allege in the indictment, the senator agreed to do these things and use his power in this way because Hana was paying bribes, because Uribe was paying bribes, and because Daibes was paying bribes,” Williams said. “Fortunately, the public officials the senator sought to influence did not bend to the pressure.”
As part of the investigation, FBI agents executed search warrants on Menendez’s residence in Englewood Cliffs back in June 2022. According to Williams, agents allegedly found approximately $500,000 in cash stuffed into envelopes and closets, in addition to $70,000 in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box. “Some of the cash was stuffed in the senator’s jacket pockets, and some of the envelopes contained Daibes’ fingerprints and DNA,” Williams said.
“That’s not all,” he continued. “Agents also discovered a lot of gold. Gold that was provided by Daibes and Hana. The FBI also found the Mercedes Benz that Uribe had provided.”
In displaying the photos of the items mentioned, there was an image of 3 kilograms of gold worth approximately $150,000, and the photo of the money was only a fraction of the cash uncovered, Williams said, adding that the investigation is still ongoing.
An NBC news report, prior to the US Attorney’s press conference, said that Menendez had previously denied all wrongdoing in this yearlong investigation and that in the past 48 hours, his office has declined to make any comments on the matter. The report did mention that sources in the senator’s camp said that Menendez plans to step down from the Foreign Relations Committee as he deals with the new criminal charges.
Gov. Phil Murphy issued a statement later in the day saying that the allegations in the indictment against Menendez and the four other defendants are deeply disturbing. “These are serious charges that implicate national security and the integrity of our criminal justice system. Under our legal system, Senator Menendez and the other defendants have not been found guilty and will have the ability to present evidence disputing these charges, and we must respect the process,” Murphy said. “However, the alleged facts are so serious that they compromise the ability of Senator Menendez to effectively represent the people of our state. Therefore, I am calling for his immediate resignation.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Menendez issued an email statement accusing prosecutors of misrepresenting “the normal work of a congressional office.”
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said in the email. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
This is not the first time Menendez has faced criminal charges. In 2015, he was indicted for allegedly illegally accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor, including more than $700,000 in political contributions, flights on a private jet, and three nights in a Paris five-star hotel. The case ended with a hung jury and federal prosecutors deciding not to retry the senator.
Menendez is up for re-election next year. He has held his Senate seat since 2006. Prior to that he served two terms in the House of Representatives (1994 to 2006). He also served in the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly. Additionally, he was mayor of Union City.
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