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Gold bars, envelopes full of cash and a sleek new Mercedes: That is the alleged price of a senator’s influence, according to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, who on Friday charged Sen. Bob Menendez with bribery, corruption and extortion.
According to the newly unsealed indictment, Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, was seen as using his influence in Washington to help three New Jersey businessmen: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, all of whom are facing charges of their own. Menendez’s wife, Nadine, was also allegedly involved.
“The senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for Sen. Menendez using his power and influence to protect and to enrich those businessmen,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said on Friday at a Manhattan press conference.
Read more on Yahoo News: Sen. Bob Menendez indicted again for corruption, allegedly had cash stuffed in coat, gold bars, from GMA
Feds: Menendez took bribes from Egypt
Menendez is charged with “promising to take and taking a series of official acts and breaches of official duty in exchange for bribes that benefited him both directly and indirectly,” according to the indictment, which stems from a raid that federal law enforcement officers executed at his home in the summer of 2022.
That raid yielded more than “$480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe,” the indictment states, along with “$100,000 worth of gold bars.” Some of the cash envelopes “were found inside jackets bearing MENENDEZ’s name and hanging in his closet,” according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Hana, who is Egyptian, bribed Menendez — the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — to “commit acts and breaches of duty to benefit the Government of Egypt, HANA, and others, including with respect to foreign military sales and foreign military financing.” Menendez would often meet with Egyptian officials, the indictment alleges, and agree to their funding requests.
The senator also helped Hana achieve a monopoly over the lucrative business of certifying food exported from the United States to Egypt, federal prosecutors allege. Hana is not a Muslim and had no experience in food inspection. But when the U.S. Department of Agriculture tried to grant licenses to other companies, Menendez interceded successfully on Hana’s behalf.
Uribe and Daibes were associates of Hana's and also businessmen in New Jersey. In their cases, Menendez worked to stop state investigations into their practices, the indictment says.
Read more on Yahoo News: Watch live as Senator Menendez indictment unsealed by attorney after $580K of cash and gold found at home, from the Independent
Not the 1st time the senator has been accused
Although five people were indicted on Friday, one is inarguably the center of the story: Bob Menendez, a scrappy politician who, starting in the early 1990s, began a steady rise through New Jersey’s political machine.
Menendez first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, a bid that was almost undone by an investigation launched by New Jersey’s federal prosecutor at the time, Chris Christie, the future governor and Trump associate/nemesis.
On Friday, Menendez remained as defiant as ever. “Those behind this campaign 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,” he said in a statement.
He is expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
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Who is Nadine Menendez?
Although Menendez is at the center of the indictment, his wife, Nadine — known as Nadine Arslanian before she married him in 2020 — was a key figure in the alleged schemes.
It was Nadine who introduced Menendez to Hana, the indictment says. She and the Egyptian businessman “were friends for many years before she began dating” Menendez in 2018. She was frequently involved as a go-between or surrogate for her husband. The indictment describes how, in 2019, investigators recovered “thousands of text messages” between her and Hana that she had allegedly tried to delete.
After Bob Menendez managed to secure a monopoly on halal inspections for Hana, Nadine Menendez texted him: “Seems like halal went through. It might be a fantastic 2019 all the way around.”
During the 2022 raid, $70,000 was recovered from her safe deposit box.
Read more on Yahoo News: Why is New Jersey so corrupt? from the Daily Beast