For the second time in a decade, Sen. Bob Menendez has been indicted by federal authorities on corruption charges.
In an indictment unsealed Sept. 22 by the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Department of Justice is charging Menendez, his wife Nadine and three North Jersey businessmen with counts of bribery and wire fraud. Additionally, the Menendez’s are charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
The indictment includes details such as the U.S. Senator and his wife passing sensitive intelligence information, accepting gold bars and selling them under false pretenses, finding nearly a half million dollars of cash stuffed in jackets in the closets at their Englewood Cliffs house, and text messages that state it is “Christmas in July” after receiving cash from a North Jersey developer.
The 39 page indictment centers around the Menendez and his wife’s “corrupt relationship” with three North Jersey associates and businessmen—Wael “Will” Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes.
Federal authorities allege from 2018-2022, Menendez continually attempted to use his influence internationally, federally and in state governments to either enrich or look to thwart criminal indictments for the men and their associates., with Nadine Menendez at the center of the interactions.
Menendez Decries Prosecutors Excesses
Menendez released a statement where he implored supporters to “recall the other times the prosecutors got it wrong” to their reserve judgment and that he is “confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans will see this for what it is.”
“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,” he said.
“The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent. 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 longstanding friendships she had before she and I even met.”
Menendez is accused by authorities of aiding a firm backed by Hana and Daibes to obtain a monopoly to test whether Egyptian food exports met halal food standards and pressuring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cease complaints over the contract, which the agency said risked supply chain disruptions and would increase the cost of halal goods in the U.S.
Nadine Menendez told Hana in 2018 that she was dating Menendez and in the following months and years, Nadine and Hana introduced Egyptian intelligence and military officials to the senator for “the purpose of establishing and solidifying a corrupt agreement,” the indictment reads.
The firm, IS EG Halal, allegedly paid thousands to a consulting business owned by Nadine Menendez in payments authorities said were facilitated by Daibes. Additionally, the firm allegedly purchased exercise machines and an air purifier that were delivered to the senator’s home.
Intel Information Passed
Besides attempting to help in the halal trade, Menendez is accused of using his influence to speed up military aid to Egypt in exchange for a low- or no-show job for his wife in 2018 with Hana. The State Department had used the withholding of military aid to the nation over its human rights record, echoing concerns raised by other senators.
Prosecutors said the senator sought to obtain highly sensitive information about staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which authorities say Menendez shared with his wife, who passed it to Hana who then gave it to Egyptian officials.
Authorities allege Menendez took other actions to aid Egypt at the behest of the nation’s officials, including by urging the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury to intervene in negotiations over a dam on the Nile River.
Interfering with State Investigation
Menendez is charged with interfering in a state criminal investigation into an associate and relative of Uribe, who is alleged to have paid for the aid with a Mercedes-Benz convertible that retails for more than $60,000.
Specifically, the U.S. Senator contacted a senior state prosecutor in the New Jersey Attorney General’s who was supervising the investigation involving a family member of Uribe, “through advice and pressure,” to cause officials to resolve these matters favorably to the defendant. The case involved insurance fraud relating to a trucking company owned by Uribe.
“After being contacted by Menendez, to avoid any potential inappropriate influence in the case, (the official) did not share with the prosecution team that Menendez had contacted him about the matter, and did not intervene in the matter,” the complaint states.
“Nonetheless, in or about April 2019, the New Jersey Defendant resolved his criminal prosecution with a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement that recommended a non-incarceratory sentence. This resolution was more favorable for the New Jersey Defendant than the prosecutors’ initial plea offer earlier in the case.”
Uribe allegedly provided Nadine Menendez $15,000 in cash for a down payment and later made more than $30,000 in car payments from a trucking company he owned. Those payments ceased after federal agents executed search warrants in June 2022.
The indictment accuses Menendez of seeking to influence a separate federal criminal case targeting Daibes by moving to install a U.S. attorney who might provide the prominent North Jersey developer with favorable treatment and by pressuring officials involved in the prosecution.
In December 2020, the North Jersey lawmaker met with an individual who would later be nominated to be the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. At the meeting Menendez criticized the federal prosecution of Daibes and said that he hoped that the candidate would look into Daibess case if he became the U.S. Attorney; it is the only case Menendez brought up in the meeting, according to federal authorities
The indictment detailed how after the meeting, the candidate said that he might have to recuse himself from the Daibes prosecution as a result of a matter he had handled in private practice. Menendez reacted by telling him that he would not put forward the candidate’s name to the White House and would be recommending a different individual for the position.
“In or about the spring of 2021, an (“Advisor”) associated with Menendez spoke to the candidate and discussed, among other things, the possibility of the candidate recusing from the prosecution of (Daibes),” wrote prosecutors.
“Subsequently, the advisor informed Menendez he believed that the Candidate would likely not have to recuse from the prosecution of Daibes. On or about May 2, 2021, in connection with Menedez’s potential recommendation of the Candidate, the Aadvisor texted Menendez, ‘I think if you call [the Candidate], you’ll be comfortable with what he says’.”
Menendez would then go on to recommend the candidate who would eventually be sworn in as U.S. Attorney in December 2021
List of Ill Gotten Gains
Among the items the government alleges that the Menendez’s illegally received include:
- A 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C300 automobile;
- A sum of $486,461 in U.S. currency seized from the Englewood Cliffs premises;
- A sum of $79,760 in U.S. currency seized from safe deposit box;
- Two one-kilogram gold bars; and
- Eleven one-ounce gold bars.
“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,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during a press conference Sept. 22. “Fortunately, the public officials the senator sought to influence did not bend to the pressure.”
Menendez previously faced federal charges in 2015, when he was indicted on corruption charges over his ties to a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen. But the trial in that case ended in a mistrial for , Menendez, who was ultimately acquitted in 2018. Both times he has been indicted, a Democrat has been President—Barack Obama in 2015 and Joe Biden this year. Melgen was convicted, but would be pardoned by President Donald Trump.
The Hudson County native is up for re-election next year. No major challengers have emerged to run against Menendez in either party. Possible Republican candidates, such as State Sen. Michael Testa (R-1), have concentrated on the State Senate and Assembly elections in November.
As for Democrats, Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill would be at the front of the line to replace Menendez. Both have reportedly eyed being the party’s nominee for the 2025 governor’s race.