Federal Corruption: Democratic Senator and Wife Deny Charges

On Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan, Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and his wife, Nadine Menendez, pleaded not guilty to federal corruption and bribery allegations.

While both will surrender their personal passports, Senator Menendez will keep his official passport. Menendez will be subject to pre-trial monitoring and was ordered to cease all contact with Senate officials.

A $100,000 personal recognizance bond has been placed for Menendez. A $250,000 bond was set for his wife.

Others named in the indictment have also entered not-guilty pleas. These include Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer and founder of a New Jersey-based bank who has been a longtime campaign fundraiser for Menendez, and Jose Uribe, a New Jersey businessman who worked in trucking and insurance and had his broker license previously revoked due to a fraud conviction.

In contrast to Uribe’s $1 million bail, Daibe’s was $2 million. They will also hand over their passports. On Wednesday, the four accused will be released on their own recognizance.

Wednesday morning, Menendez, his wife, and Daibes arrived outside the New York City courthouse, avoiding photographers and reporters following them.

Prosecutors say Nadine Menendez played a crucial role in collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes from three New Jersey businessmen seeking help from the powerful lawmaker. Nadine Menendez, through her lawyer, has denied the claims and stated she intends to fight the charges, as reported by the Associated Press.

Wael Hana, a fifth alleged conspirator and a New Jersey businessman from Egypt, was arrested on Tuesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport and pleaded not guilty that afternoon; a federal judge subsequently released him on a $5 million personal recognizance bond, subject to the surrender of his passport and the use of GPS monitoring.

FBI officers searched the New Jersey house shared by Menendez, 69, and his wife and claimed to have discovered over $480,000 in cash, much of it hidden in clothing and closets, as well as more than $100,000 in gold bars and a Mercedez-Benz convertible said to have been given to the couple as a bribe.

It’s Menendez’s second trial on corruption charges in a decade; in 2017, a different set of charges resulted in a hung jury.

According to Menendez’s accusers, Hana set up dinners and other get-togethers with him, his wife Nadine, and Egyptian military and intelligence members.

In exchange for Menendez using his noteworthy status to arrange foreign military sales and funding to Egypt, prosecutors allege Hana pledged to hire Menendez’s wife in a low-or-no-show job at his company. According to the indictment, Hana reportedly contributed $23,000 to her mortgage, issued checks totaling $30,000 to her consulting firm, promised her cash envelopes, sent her fitness equipment, and purchased some gold bars discovered in their home.

Federal prosecutors claim that Menendez attempted to obstruct justice in the criminal investigation of Uribe and his allies by recommending that President Biden designate a U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey whom the senator believed he could influence with respect to Daibes.

On Monday, in his first public comments since the indictment, Menendez stated that the cash he had stashed away in his house had been taken from his personal savings accounts over the years and kept on hand in case of emergencies. However, according to prosecutors, one of the envelopes full of cash found at his home bore Daibes’ DNA and was marked with the real estate developer’s return address.

Despite U.S. government concerns over Egypt’s human rights record, which has forced Congress to impose restrictions on aid in recent years, the indictment alleges that Menendez repeatedly took actions to benefit Egypt. Prosecutors have detailed a series of dinners and meetings between Menendez and Egyptian officials, during which they claim he provided the latter with classified information and ghostwrote a letter to his colleagues in the Senate urging them to release $300 million in aid to Egypt, one of the top recipients of U.S. military support.

According to the prosecution, Menendez also attempted to persuade a U.S. agricultural official to back down from opposing a lucrative arrangement that gave Hana’s company an exclusive right to certify that imported meat fulfilled Islamic halal criteria.