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Sen. Bob Menendez and wife indicted on federal bribery charges

Federal prosecutors announced an indictment of the New Jersey Democrat and his wife related to a 'corrupt relationship' with three businessmen

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and his wife, Nadine, arrive for a reception honoring of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Mitsotakis in the East Room of the White House in May 2022.
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and his wife, Nadine, arrive for a reception honoring of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Mitsotakis in the East Room of the White House in May 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine, have been indicted on federal bribery charges in connection with their “corrupt relationship” with three New Jersey businessmen, prosecutors announced Friday.

Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a press conference Friday that an indictment alleges “the senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for Senator Menendez using his power and influence, to protect and to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.”

Williams said that those bribes happened between 2018 and 2022 and included cash, gold, mortgage payments, a Mercedes-Benz and a no-show job for his wife. The indictment includes three charges against the couple: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion.

Menendez, who was indicted in a separate case in 2015 on federal corruption charges but not convicted, released a statement that called the indictment “baseless accusations” that will not distract him from his Senate work.

Menendez said prosecutors “misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office” and have attacked his wife for “longstanding friendships” she had before the two met.

“They wrote these charges as they wanted; the facts are not as presented,” Menendez stated. “Prosecutors did that the last time and look what a trial demonstrates. People should remember that before accepting the prosecutor’s version.”

The indictment comes more than a year before the New Jersey Democrat is expected to be on the ballot seeking a fourth full term and as his party is playing defense in numerous states to hold on to a narrow Senate majority.

Indictment unsealed

The prosecutor said Menendez used his official power as a senator and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in several ways to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt as well as three New Jersey businessmen who were also indicted, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes.

Williams noted that Menendez said on his Senate website that he can’t compel an agency to act in someone’s favor, can’t influence matters involving a private business and can’t get involved in criminal matters.

“But we allege that behind the scenes, Senator Menendez was doing those things for certain people. The people who were bribing him and his wife,” Williams said.

Among those actions, Menendez provided sensitive U.S. government information and took other steps that secretly helped the Egyptian government, Williams said.

The indictment also alleges Menendez used his power to recommend that the president nominate a person as U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey who he believed he could manipulate to disrupt the criminal prosecution of Daibes.

Menendez also is accused of improperly pressuring a U.S. Department of Agriculture official to protect a business monopoly Egypt granted to one of the businessmen, Hana, according to the indictment. That monopoly was used in part to fund the bribes to the Menendezes, the indictment states.

The senator also is accused of promising to use his influence to disrupt a criminal investigation and prosecution by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office into Uribe and associates.

“Fortunately, the public officials the senator sought to influence did not bend to the pressure,” Williams said. “That’s a good thing.”

Investigation details

Federal agents executed a search warrant in June 2022 at the Menendez home in New Jersey, in which they say they found the fruits of the bribery agreement, including more than $480,000 in cash in envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe, the indictment states.

More than $70,000 was found in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box, the indictment states, and some of the envelopes stuffed with cash had the fingerprints of Daibes and his driver on them. Some envelopes were found inside jackets with Menendez’s name on them, hanging in his closet, images provided by the prosecution show.

The home search also turned up gold bars valued at more than $100,000 provided by either Hana or Daibes, the luxury vehicle paid for by Uribe and home furnishings given by Hana and Daibes, the indictment states.

Nadine and the senator began dating in 2018. Hana, who is from Egypt, but lives in New Jersey, was friends with Nadine before she began dating Menendez and had exchanged thousands of texts with Hana, the indictment states.

Uribe works in the trucking and insurances sectors and has been previously convicted of fraud and had his insurance broker’s license revoked, according to the indictment. He is a business associate and friend of Hana.

Daibes is a real estate developer and founder of a bank who is an associate of Hana and a longtime fundraiser for the senator, according to the indictment. Daibes was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey with obtaining loans under false pretenses from that bank, the indictment states.

Hana and Nadine Menendez worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Menendez to construct a corrupt agreement wherein Hana, with help from Daibes and Uribe, gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to the couple for Menendez to take improper acts that benefited the Egyptian government on items such as foreign military sales and financing, the indictment states.

Potential fallout

Menendez will step aside as chairman of the committee as he fights the charges, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said. Menendez was the ranking Democrat on the panel when he was first indicted in 2015, and stepped aside and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., filled that role. Cardin is retiring at the end of this Congress.

In his statement, Menendez said there has been an “active smear campaign” against him and vowed to not be distracted by the charges.

“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave. 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,” Menendez said in a statement.

He said those behind the campaign against him “simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction. Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals.”

He cited his previous federal corruption charges. “I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent,” Menendez said.

In April, Menendez set up a legal defense fund to handle what a spokesman at the time called “an official inquiry.” A disclosure filed in July did not show any funds raised, but Menendez took in more than $5.1 million to defend himself against charges of bribery and taking undisclosed gifts from a wealthy donor from a previous indictment.

That last federal case against Menendez in 2015 included charges that campaign contributions, trips and accommodations provided by a Florida eye specialist were bribes to get the senator’s help in battles over Medicare reimbursement.

A jury could not reach a verdict in 2017 and a judge acquitted the senator in 2018 on the most serious charges. The Justice Department later dropped the rest of the charges.

Menendez was “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee over the gifts in April 2018, but went on to win reelection that year by more than 11 points.

The New Jersey Democrat had vowed to fight the charges and said he was confident “at the end of the day I will be vindicated.”

The eye specialist was convicted of Medicare fraud in a separate case but had his sentence commuted by President Donald Trump.