Menendez, His Wife, Gold Bars and the Case Against Them

Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey vows to beat his latest corruption charges after prosecutors accused him of taking cash and gold for illegally helping Egypt and three businessmen.

(Bloomberg) — Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey vows to beat his latest corruption charges after prosecutors accused him of taking cash and gold for illegally helping Egypt and three businessmen.

Fellow Democrats want him to resign as he battles a Sept. 21 indictment that details how US agents found 13 gold bars and $486,461 stuffed in envelopes, closets and a safe at his house.

A defiant Menendez said Sept. 25 the cash came from his personal savings and not bribes, and he kept it for emergencies. He denied illegally helping Egypt, saying he’s been tough on human rights abuses there.

Menendez is expected to plead not guilty Wednesday at a federal court in New York, where he will eventually face trial. He was charged with his wife, Nadine, and the businessmen – Wael Hana, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe. 

All five are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. The senator and his wife are also charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

Here’s a look at who’s charged and the allegations:

Bob Menendez

Background: Menendez, 69, is a son of Cuban immigrants who has served in the Senate since 2006. After the indictment, he stepped down — at least temporarily — as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Menendez has faced corruption allegations before. He went to trial in 2017 on charges that he took gifts of private jet travel, a Paris vacation and campaign contributions in exchange for pushing a Florida doctor’s business interests within the US government. A judge declared a mistrial after jurors deadlocked. The Justice Department dropped the case.  

Allegations: Prosecutors say the Menendez conspiracy started in January 2018, around when the Justice Department dropped the previous corruption case.

Menendez is accused of giving Egyptian officials “highly sensitive” information about who worked at the US embassy in Cairo. He secretly wrote a letter that Egypt sent to his colleagues, urging them to lift a hold on $300 million in US aid. He had his wife tell Hana that he would approve a $99 million arms sale to Egypt, the US said.

Menendez allegedly pressured a US Department of Agriculture official to protect the exclusive right Egypt gave to Hana’s company, EG Halal Certified Inc., to certify US food exports as compliant with halal standards.

Prosecutors accuse Menendez of seeking to influence a US indictment against Daibes, a prominent developer. In return, Daibes passed cash, gold bars and a recliner to Menendez and his wife, the US said.

The senator also tried to interfere in the New Jersey insurance fraud prosecution of an associate of Uribe. In exchange, Uribe and Hana helped Menendez and his wife buy a $60,000 Mercedes Benz, the US said.

Nadine Arslanian Menendez

Background: Nadine Arslanian, 56, was born in Beirut to Armenian parents and fled the Lebanese civil war, settling in the US. She earned degrees at New York University, studying international politics and French culture and civilization, she said in a 2020 interview.

She began dating Menendez in February 2018 and they married in October 2020.

Allegations: She introduced Menendez to Hana, a friend with whom she exchanged thousands of text messages. She and Hana introduced Menendez to Egyptian military and intelligence officials, who pressed the senator for help with US military financing and sales.

Uribe gave her $15,000 to help buy a 2019 Mercedes convertible. “You are a miracle worker,” she texted Uribe. A day later, she used cash, checks and a credit card for a down payment. Uribe allegedly made monthly payments on the car for three years. 

When authorities raided her safe deposit box last year, they found $79,760 in cash.

Fred Daibes

Background: Daibes, 66, was born in Lebanon and lived in a refugee camp, before emigrating to the US with his family. He launched a real estate development company that helped transform Edgewater into a prosperous bedroom community for Manhattan commuters.

In 2013, Daibes was badly beaten in a home invasion by robbers who stole gold bars, silver and jewelry valued at more than $1.3 million. Four people, including an employee, were sentenced to more than a decade in prison.

Daibes was a founder and chairman of Mariner’s Bank, which played a role in the 2018 indictment. Prosecutors said that from 2008 to 2013, he circumvented bank lending limits to borrow millions. Daibes pleaded guilty last year to reduced charges in a deal that calls for no prison time. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 26. 

Allegations: Daibes, a Menendez fundraiser, turned to the senator for help in exerting influence over how the US attorney’s office in New Jersey handled his case. 

When US authorities raided Menendez, they found “multiple” gold bars from Daibes and cash envelopes with the fingerprints or DNA of Daibes and his driver, the US said.

Wael Hana

Background: Hana, 40, was born in Egypt and has lived in the US since 2006. He is president of EG Halal Certified Inc. in Edgewater.

US authorities raided his home and office in November 2019 as part of an investigation into whether he was an unregistered foreign agent. He sued two months later for the return of his property, which included electronic devices and documents.

Hana pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

Allegations: Prosecutors said in the latest case that he maintained close ties to Egyptian officials as he and Nadine Menendez arranged for the senator to meet them as early as 2018. 

When Nadine Menendez faced a foreclosure in July 2019, Hana’s company paid about $23,000 to bring her mortgage current. Hana also promised to give her a low-or-no-show job, and she complained repeatedly about his failure to deliver. After she called Daibes, Hana’s firm issued three $10,000 checks to a consulting company she set up, the US said.

Jose Uribe

Background: Uribe, 56, works in the trucking and insurance business. He has been convicted of fraud and had his insurance broker’s license revoked.

Allegations: He turned to Menendez for help in an insurance fraud prosecution by the New Jersey Attorney General of an associate and a related investigation involving an employee.

After “multiple” briefings by Uribe, Hana and Menendez’s wife, the senator contacted a senior state prosecutor and tried to pressure him to resolve the prosecution more favorably, the US said.

In April 2019, the associate pleaded guilty in a deal that called for no jail time. 

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