Bob Menendez's wife hit and killed a man while driving in New Jersey town in 2018

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Nadine Arslanian Menendez, federally indicted in a bribery scheme with her husband, Sen. Bob Menendez, struck and killed a man while driving her Mercedes-Benz in a New Jersey town in December 2018.

Details about the crash, which unfolded on the evening of Dec. 12, 2018 on Main Street in Bogota, New Jersey, are outlined in a Bogota Police Department report obtained by and The Record.

Arslanian – who began dating Menendez in February 2018 and married the senator in October 2020 – was not charged in the incident.

A month after the crash, according to an indictment brought by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Arslanian was texting Wael Hana, an Egyptian American businessman also indicted in the bribery scheme, about her lack of car. Hana later provided her with a 2019 Mercedez-Benz C-300 convertible, the indictment says.

Registration records show that the 2019 Mercedes was purchased in March of that year. When reached by phone Tuesday night, attorney David Schertler, who is representing Arslanian in her federal case, had no comment on the crash.

'Not at fault in this crash'

Nadine Arslanian Menendez
Nadine Arslanian Menendez

Bogota police responded to calls of a pedestrian hit by a car just after 7:35 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2018. The crash, which occurred at 155 E. Main St., left Richard Koop, 49, of Bogota, fatally injured in front of his home.

“Ms. Arslanian was not at fault in this crash,” a Bogota Police Department investigation report reads. “Mr. Koop was jaywalking and did not cross the street at an intersection or in a marked crosswalk.”

Bogota Patrolman Michael LaFerrera, writing in a police report, said he arrived at the scene and saw Koop “laying in the westbound lane of travel.”

Koop “appeared to have severe head trauma, bleeding from the back of his head, bleeding from the face and possible fractured legs and arms.”

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LaFerrera wrote that Koop was “unconscious and did not appear to be breathing”; he couldn’t find a pulse and was “unable to attempt CPR as there was no way to properly control Mr. Koop’s bleeding from his face and head, rendering CPR useless.”

Koop was taken to Holy Name Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 8:18 p.m.

During the waning moments of Koop’s life, Arslanian is seen shivering in a dress and fur coat talking to the police in dashboard-camera video obtained by and The Record. Though the Bogota police report says the weather was clear, her breath is visible as she asks to speak with an attorney because she didn’t “want to say anything wrong.”

In the video, Arslanian asks officers why Koop was in the road and tells police that she “didn’t do anything wrong.”

The police let Arslanian, with the help of a friend, get some personal belongings out of her car. Though the friend isn’t visible, he can be heard talking to the police and acknowledges that he is a retired cop from Hackensack.

Arslanian, according to the police reports, also initially agreed to allow officers to search her phone, but took it back from them shortly thereafter. Arslanian also complained that her hands were injured.

The police records don't show that any field sobriety tests were done. There is also no indication that she was questioned about drinking or using any kind of drugs.

Nadine Arslanain was driving this Mercedes in December of 2018 when she struck and killed Richard Koop in Bogota.
Nadine Arslanain was driving this Mercedes in December of 2018 when she struck and killed Richard Koop in Bogota.

When interviewed by police, she told them that Koop “ran across the roadway and jumped onto the hood” of her car.

The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Fatal Accident Investigation Unit and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigations were called in to assist. The county agencies documented, processed and photographed the evidence, according to an investigation report filed by Bogota Patrolman Kevin Geraghty on Feb. 25, 2019, more than two months after the crash.

Sections of the reports obtained by and The Record, authored by LaFerrera and Bogota police Sgt. Thomas Riedel, say Bergen County Prosecutor's Office investigators agreed – at the scene of the crash – that Arslanian was not at fault.

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Who was Richard Koop?

Nearly five years after his death, Koop is still remembered for his consideration while those whose lives he touched struggle for closure.

Koop was raised by his mother, Gisela, in Ridgefield Park who immigrated from Germany. His father, Bruno, died when Koop was a child.

Perry Maio, who went to school with Koop from third grade at Roosevelt Elementary School up through Ridgefield Park High School, remembered him as a quiet, “down-to-earth gentleman” and talented baseball player. Maio's wife, Michele, with whom he co-owns the Cozy Tavern in Bogota, said, “I never got closure, to be honest with you. I googled and googled and googled, I was so obsessed with it. It was so unfair how he died.”

Taylor Carpluk, 28, replays voicemails that Koop left her so she can hear his laugh, which she described as very loud, long and deep. She first met him when he was a co-worker of her father’s at Metropolitan Exposition, where he would help set up and take down equipment for shows at the Javits Center back around 2013, she said.

When she began bartending at the Cozy Tavern, Carpluk said, she and Koop struck up a friendship. She would call him the bar "dad," she said, explaining that Koop would hang out with her during shifts and make sure nobody said anything inappropriate to her, or would defuse any tension. He made her and her family feel safe working until 2 or 3 a.m.

“He went through a lot ... with me. He was there for me a lot,” Carpluk said.

She said Koop would do anything for his son, and that he was a foodie, and loved fishing and camping in Vermont. They had planned a trip to Vermont together, but it didn’t end up happening. Carpluk said she later got a tattoo of the Green Mountains with the words “In time I will meet you there.”

Carpluk heard rumors about what happened to Koop, but his death was such a hard time for his friends and family, she didn’t want to pry and ask questions. But it bothered her.

“When you look it [the accident] up, you see nothing about it,” Carpluk said. “So it’s like, what really did happen? What investigating did they do for that accident? The grief of having to live with, you hit this person and they died, yes, but there’s no follow-up with it ... nothing that is available to the public.”

Jaycee Castor, 34, first met Koop around 13 years ago during a bad storm.

She had just started working at the Cozy Tavern in Bogota and was by herself there when the power went out. She was terrified, when in walked Koop.

“Him barely even knowing who I was, said, ‘I cannot believe that your doors are open and your lights were on! Come on, I’ll give you a ride home!’” Castor said. “And he was wonderful to me from that day forward. He’s a man that would give you the shirt off his back."

Danielle DeBouter, Koop’s ex-wife, said he was an amazing co-parent to their son, Jake, now 16. He would attend Jake’s soccer games and practices, and when Jake spent summers in Long Beach Island with DeBouter’s family, he would drive down to see him compete in swim meets, take them out to dinner or an arcade and drive the way home. “Richard always put Jake first, everything was Jake first,” DeBouter said.

“Nobody ever reached out to us at all, ‘Is your son OK?’” DeBouter said. “Nothing. It was as if it didn't happen, except we knew it happened.”

DeBouter was called to identify Koop's body hours after the crash, and she remembers “his body was traumatized so badly he was unrecognizable.”

Sheri Breen, who served as the attorney for Koop's estate and worked on behalf of the family, said that Koop "did everything he was supposed to do, he went out with his friends and took an Uber home.

“When he was right across the street from his home,” Breen said, Arslanian “came flying down the street and killed him.”

Breen said a surveillance video from a business on the street shows that Arslanian “moved her car around his body as he was lying in the road and she did not come to his aid or to even check on him.”

Breen said she secured a settlement for the family "for the maximum amount." DeBouter, Koop’s ex-wife, said er family received $60,000 after attorney's fees were taken out.

In a statement on behalf of the family, Breen called Koop a "loving father."

"He worked collectively to co-parent his son," she said. "Due to the negligent actions of the defendant, his son will be forced to go through life without his father and his family must suffer the void left with his passing."

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Who is Nadine Arslanian Menendez?

Arslanian was born to Armenian parents in Beirut, Lebanon. They fled during that country’s civil war to Greece and, later, to London before moving to the United States. Menendez and Arslanian told The New York Times that they met at a Union City IHOP in December 2018, but according to the Southern District's indictment, Menendez and Arslanian began dating in February of that year.

Their whirlwind courtship is well documented, including his October 2019 marriage proposal — which Menendez sang — at the Taj Mahal in India. There were married in October 2020.

Menendez and his four co-defendants will face trial for the alleged bribery scheme on May 6. The state’s senior senator faces corruption charges, brought by the Southern District of New York, for allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three businessmen in exchange for helping them enrich themselves and trying to get them out of trouble, according to an indictment unsealed on Sept. 22 in New York.

At a conference in federal court in lower Manhattan on Monday, Judge Sidney Stein scheduled the trial to start on May 6 for the senior senator and the other four defendants — his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, and businessmen Wael Hana, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe.

What does the indictment say?

The indictment alleges that between 2018 and 2022, Menendez, who until Friday served as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his wife “engaged in a corrupt relationship with Hana, Uribe and Daibes” to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for Menendez using his “power and influence to protect, to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.”

Bribes allegedly included cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low- or no-show job and a Mercedes-Benz — much of which is detailed in photographs in the 39-page indictment.

Calls for resignation mount

The chorus calling for Menendez's resignation continues to grow. Last week, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said that since Menendez denies the allegations, it is “understandable that he believes stepping down is patently unfair" but that he sees that as a mistake and believes “stepping down is best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving.”

Booker stood by Menendez when he was indicted in 2015. Menendez denies the current accusations, saying Monday that the "allegations leveled against me are just that" and calling this "the biggest fight yet" but saying he “firmly believes that when all the facts are presented” he will be exonerated.

Gov. Phil Murphy and other New Jersey Democrats have called on Menendez to step down — in stark contrast to the support Menendez received from most Democrats during his earlier corruption case.

Other Democratic senators calling on Menendez to resign include John Fetterman and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Peter Welch of Vermont, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Jon Tester of Montana and Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

Editor's note: This story was originally published at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4. It has been updated to reflect additional reporting.

This article originally appeared on Wife of Bob Menendez killed man in car accident, report shows