U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his wife have been indicted in New York on federal bribery charges related to their allegedly “corrupt relationship” with three businessmen from their home state to protect those men and benefit the nation of Egypt.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan has scheduled a press conference for 11 a.m. ET Friday to discuss the indictment against the Democratic senator and Nadine Menendez, which also charges the three businessmen: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes.
Menendez, who is up for reelection in 2024, is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is stepping down as chair because of the indictment, according to a source close to him who spoke with NBC News.
The indictment says that Menendez and his wife from at least 2018 through 2022 accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using Menendez’s power and influence as Senator” to benefit the men and Egypt.
“Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value,” according to the indictment issued by a grand jury in Manhattan federal court.
This is the second time Menendez has been indicted on federal bribery charges. In 2015, he was charged with 14 criminal counts related to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of lavish gifts and campaign donations he received from a Florida ophthalmologist, Salomon Melgen.
While Melgen was later convicted of Medicare fraud and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison, the prosecution against Menendez was dropped after a trial that ended in a hung jury.
Menedez and Nadine are charged with three counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
Hana, Uribe and Daibes are charged with the first two of those criminal counts.
The indictment alleges that Bob Menendez promised and sought to disrupt a federal criminal prosecution of Daibes in exchange for the money and other items of value. Those efforts by Menendez allegedly included recommending to President Joe Biden that he nominate a candidate for U.S. Attorney for New Jersey “who Menendez believed could be influenced by Menendez with respect to Daibes’s case,” the indictment charges.
Biden later nominated Phillip Sellinger as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, the top federal prosecutor in the state.
A phone message left at Menendez’s personal Senate office was not immediately returned. A spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
The indictment says that during a June 2022 raid on the Menendezs’ New Jersey home and a safe deposit box, federal agents found cash, gold and a luxury vehicle that were the “fruits of [the couple’s] corrupt bribery agreement” with the businessmen.
“Over $480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe–was discovered in the home, along with over $70,000 in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box,” the indictment said.
“Some of the envelopes contained the fingerprints and/or DNA of Daibes or his driver,” the charging document said.
In addition to the cash, agents also seized 81.5 ounces of gold bars, which at current prices are worth about $155,000.
Menendez has been setting up a legal defense fund in connection with the federal criminal investigation, according to NBC New York.That defense fund appears to be run directly by Menendez and his longtime campaign treasurer John Palumbo, according to a disclosure filing sent to the Internal Revenue Service.
The document, which was signed by Palumbo in July, lists Menendez as a “grantor” of the fund and the campaign treasurer as a “trustee.”
The fund is titled the “Menendez Legal Defense Fund” and with a listed goal of paying “expenses in connection with legal proceedings incurred in connection with service to the U.S. Senate.”
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