By Allan Lengel
Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who dodged a bullet in 2017 when a federal jury deadlocked on a bribery case, is back in a familiar spot.
The powerful senator, 69, and his wife Nadine Menendez, 56, and three New Jersey businessmen have been indicted on bribery charges, announced Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams on Friday. He spearheaded the probe rather than federal authorities in New Jersey.
Authorities charged that the Menendez couple received gold bars, hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash while the senator used his powerful position to secretly benefit businessmen and the Egyptian government by providing sensitive information and helping in other matters.
Specifically, a grand jury charged that between 2018 and 2022, Sen. Menendez and his wife engaged in a corrupt relationship with New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes, who collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value. The five are scheduled to make an initial appearance in a New York federal court on Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney Williams said FBI agents raided the Menendez New Jersey home in 2022 and found nearly $500,000 in cash hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe, about $150,000 in gold bricks, as well as $70,000 in cash in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box.
In early 2018, prosecutors decided not to pursue a second trial after Menendez’s hung jury in New Jersey in 2017. It was in 2018 that authorities allege that the new bribery conspiracy began.
Menendez issued a statement, according to the New York Times, saying he was confident the matter would be “successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented.”
Still, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Philip D. Murphy called on Menendez to resign. Menendez is up for re-election next year. If he were to step down, Murphy could appoint an interim Senator.
In a press release, authorities laid out the origins of the case.
Sen. Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, began dating Nadine Menendez in February 2018. They married in October 2022. She introduced the senator to long-time friend Wael Hana, who is originally from Egypt, lived in New Jersey, and maintained close connections with Egyptian officials. Hana was also business associates with the two co-defendants, Diabes, a New Jersey real estate developer and long-time donor to Menendez, and Uribe, who worked in the New Jersey insurance and trucking business.
Authorities alleged, that as part of the bribery scheme, Menendez agreed to pressure a senior U.S. Department of Agriculture official in an effort to protect a business monopoly granted to businessman Hana by Egypt, disrupt a criminal case being pursued by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office related to associates of businessman Uribe, and disrupt a federal criminal prosecution brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey against businessman Daibes.
As part of the scheme, authorities alleged that the bribes also included payments toward Nadine Menedez’s home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job for her and home furnishings.
Authorities alleged that Menendez provided “non-public U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the Government of Egypt. For example, in or about May 2018, MENENDEZ provided Egyptian officials with non-public information regarding the number and nationality of persons serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Although this information was not classified, it was deemed highly sensitive because it could pose significant operational security concerns if disclosed to a foreign government or made public.”
Authorities said, without telling his professional staff or the State Department, on May 7, 2018, Menendez texted that sensitive information to his then girlfriend, Nadine, who forwarded the message to Haba, who forwarded it to an Egyptian government official.
Later that same month, Menendez ghost-wrote a letter on behalf of Egypt to other U.S. Senators advocating for them to release a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt. Menendez sent this ghost-written letter to Nadine, who forwarded it to Hana, who sent it to Egyptian officials, authorities allege.
Authorities also charged that between 2018 and 2022, Sen. Menendez also conveyed to Egyptian officials through Nadine, Hana and Daibes, that he would approve or remove holds on foreign military financing and sales of military equipment to Egypt