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Sen. Bob Menendez and wife indicted on bribery charges; DOJ seizes gold bars and $500,000

By Kara Scannell and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) — New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was charged on Friday with corruption-related offenses for the second time in 10 years.

Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, are accused of accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes” in exchange for the senator’s influence, according to the newly unsealed federal indictment.

Prosecutors allege the bribes included gold, cash, home mortgage payments, compensation for a “low-or-no-show job” and a luxury vehicle.

This is the second set of corruption charges levied against Menendez by the Justice Department in a decade. He previously fought off conspiracy, bribery and honest services fraud related to alleged personal favors.

Menendez is up for reelection next year. He has been in the Senate since 2006.

Senate Democratic Caucus rules will force Menendez to step aside as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, but he can still serve on the panel.

Menendez slammed the indictment in a statement.

“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,” he said.

“The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent,” he added. “They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office. On top of that, not content with making false claims against me, they have attacked my wife for the longstanding friendships she had before she and I even met.”

Menendez also previously set up a legal defense fund. Beginning in April, his wife sold gold bars worth as much as $400,000, according to the senator’s most recent financial disclosure form.

Accusations of corruption

Menendez is charged with three alleged crimes, including being on the receiving end of a bribery conspiracy. The conspiracy counts also charge his wife Nadine, and three people described as New Jersey associates and businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes.

A lawyer for Nadine Menendez said she denies any wrongdoing and would fight the federal indictment.

Bob Menendez and the other defendants will appear in court at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

The group is accused of coordinating to use Menendez’s power as a US senator to benefit them personally and to benefit Egypt.

In the indictment, prosecutors accuse Menendez of trying to sway the president’s choice of the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey to benefit one of the business associates and to pressure the Department of Agriculture to protect a business monopoly another contact had from Egypt.

The Department of Agriculture in 2019 had contacted Egypt to object to it giving Menendez’s contact, Hana, monopoly rights related to supplying halal meat to the US.

Yet Hana met Menendez in his office along with others, including an Egyptian intelligence official, in May 2019, asking for help fending off the US agency’s opposition. The group went to a Washington, DC, steakhouse for dinner that evening, the indictment said.

Two days later, Menendez allegedly called an Agriculture Department official, asking them to stop opposing Hana’s venture.

“When Official-1 attempted to explain why the monopoly was detrimental to U.S. interests, MENENDEZ reiterated his demand, in sum and substance, that the USDA stop interfering with IS EG Halal’s monopoly. Official-1 did not accede to MENENDEZ’s demand, but IS EG Halal nevertheless kept its monopoly,” the indictment said.

Searches turned up $500,000 in cash and more

According to the indictment, searches of Menendez’ home and safe deposit box that federal agents conducted in 2022 turned up nearly $500,000 in cash, including in envelopes inside jackets emblazoned with Menendez’s name.

Prosecutors say some of the envelopes had the fingerprints or DNA of one of the business contacts from whom the senator is accused of taking bribes.

The federal investigators who searched Menendez’s home also found a “luxury vehicle paid for by [Jose] Uribe parked in the garage,” as well as home furnishings from other business contacts and gold bars.

Acquitted in previous trial

Menendez was charged by federal prosecutors from the US attorney’s office in New Jersey in 2015 with conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud relating to allegedly abusing the power of his office.

Prosecutors said the senator accepted more than $600,000 in political contributions, a luxurious hotel suite at the Park Hyatt in Paris, and free rides on a private jet from a wealthy ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen, in exchange for political favors.

The corruption trial of Menendez ended in a mistrial in November 2017 after the jury reported it was deadlocked. Both men denied all of the charges. Following the mistrial, a federal judge acquitted them of several of the charges in 2018. The Justice Department dropped the remaining charges against Menendez.

Melgen was convicted on dozens of counts of health care fraud and sentenced to 17 years in a separate case, but his sentence was commuted by then-President Donald Trump in 2021.

After his mistrial was announced in 2017, a defiant Menendez issued a warning at a news conference.

“To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are, and I won’t forget you,” he said at the time.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

The-CNN-Wire
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CNN’s Holmes Lybrand, Hannah Rabinowitz and Manu Raju contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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