The indictment alleges that from 2018 through mid-2022, Menendez and his wife, Nadine, received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes and used the senator’s influence to enrich three businessmen from New Jersey and benefit the Egyptian government.
The senator, 69, and his wife have been charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. The bribes the couple allegedly received included “cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other items of value,” the filing said.
A source close to Menendez says he will step down as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee during the case. The senator’s office did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Federal agents allege they discovered many of the items when they executed search warrants on the couple’s home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, in June 2022. They allegedly found more than $480,000 in cash “much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe,” including jackets bearing the senator’s name that were hanging in his closet, as well as more than $70,000 in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box. Agents also allegedly discovered a Mercedes-Benz convertible worth more than $60,000 that a pair of New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe, gave to Nadine Menendez in exchange for the senator’s interference in a state criminal prosecution of Uribe’s associate and investigation into an employee, whom Uribe referred to as a relative.
During the search, federal agents also allegedly found gold bars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in the home that were provided by Hana and another businessman, Fred Daibes, who along with Uribe were also charged in the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Menendez “provided sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt.” It also said the senator pressured an official at the U.S. Agriculture Department for the purpose of protecting a business monopoly granted to Hana, who is an Egyptian American, by Egypt.
According to the indictment, Hana and Nadine Menendez “were friends for many years” before she started dating the senator. Around early 2018, she informed Hana that she was dating Menendez and “in the following months and years,” they worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to the senator “for the purpose of establishing and solidifying a corrupt agreement” in which Hana, with assistance from Daibes and Uribe, “provided hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes” to the senator and his wife “in exchange for Menendez’s 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,” the filing alleges.
About March 2018, the senator met with Egyptian military officials “at a meeting arranged and attended by his then-girlfriend Nadine Menendez and her friend Hana,” which took place inside Menendez’s Senate office in Washington, D.C. The meeting did not involve his professional staff from his Senate office or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the indictment says.
In May 2018, the senator sought “non-public information regarding the number and nationality of persons serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt” from the State Department, which was considered “highly sensitive” because it could “pose significant operational security concerns if disclosed to a foreign government or if made public,” the filing says. Without informing any of his staff on Capitol Hill or the State Department, he texted that information to his then-girlfriend, Nadine. She forwarded that to Hana, who then forwarded it to an Egyptian government official, it alleges.
In March 2020, Nadine Menendez texted an Egyptian official that “anytime you need anything you have my number and we will make everything happen,” the indictment says. A few days later, she arranged for the senator to meet with that official, whom Nadine referred to as “the general” to discuss negotiations over a dam on the Nile River in the region of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Eventually, the senator reached out to the secretaries of Treasury and State in a letter saying he was writing “to express my concern about the stalled negotiations.”
The indictment also alleges Menendez “promised to and did use his influence and power and breach his official duty to recommend that the President nominate an individual for U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey who Menendez believed” he could influence regarding the federal prosecution of New Jersey developer Daibes.
The indictment says Menendez and his wife will have to forfeit “to the U.S. any and all property, real and personal, that constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the commission of said offenses” if convicted the the forfeitures are approved by a judge. That would include their home in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.; the Mercedes-Benz convertible, more than $486,000 seized from the home, nearly $80,000 seized from a safe deposit box, and several gold bars taken from their home.
The indictment comes after a yearlong corruption probe led by Damian Williams, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Menendez has previously denied any wrongdoing. “I am sure it is going to end up in absolutely nothing,” he said of the probe in May.
The indictment is the second that Menendez has faced since serving in the Senate beginning in 2006.
He was charged in 2015 with illegally accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor, including flights on a private jet, three nights at a five-star hotel in Paris and more than $700,000 in political contributions.
The case ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Federal prosecutors decided not to retry him.
Menendez appears to be the first sitting senator in U.S. history to be indicted on two unrelated criminal allegations, according to data compiled by the Senate Historical Office.
Menendez is up for re-election next year. In 2018, he was elected to a third term with 54% of the vote.
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