Menendez claims he’s being charged because he’s a ‘Latino American’
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez on Friday denied the corruption charges against him and claimed he is being ‘falsely accused’ because he is a ‘Latin American’ who rose from a humble childhood to the United States Senate. Menendez and his wife Nadine Arslanian Menendez have been indicted by a federal grand jury over corruption allegations in an investigation that focused on a luxury car, $400,000 in gold bars and cash, plus payments toward a home mortgage allegedly received by the couple. The four-term senator, the son of Cuban immigrants, denied the charges and refused to resign.
‘Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first generation Latin American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. senator,’ he said in a statement. Menendez said prosecutors in the Southern District of New York ‘misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office.’ ‘I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent,’ he said. He added he would not be ‘distracted by baseless allegations’ but continue his work as senator.
The indictment claims the couple had an improper relationship with three New Jersey businessmen: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, who allegedly paid the couple in exchange for Menendez to use his influence in Washington D.C. to their benefit. The couple faces three criminal counts each: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. The three businessmen face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. The indictment also charges the senator with providing ‘sensitive U.S. Government information and took other steps that secretly aided the Government of Egypt .’
David Schertler, a lawyer for Nadine Menendez, said she ‘denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these charges in court.’ Menendez also defended his wife of three years. ‘Not content with making false statements against me, they have attacked my wife for longstanding friendships she had before she and I ever met,’ he said in his statement. The senator also pointed out he has faced and defeated corruption charges before. ‘They wrote these charges as they wanted; the facts are not as presented. Prosecutors did that last time and look what a trial demonstrates. People should remember that and not accept the prosecutor’s version.’
This is the second time Menendez has faced a corruption charge. A 2015 case ended in a mistrial after a jury failed to reach a verdict on all counts and a judge acquitted him on some charges. The first time Menendez was indicted, he had been accused of using his influence to help a Florida eye doctor who gave him gifts and campaign contributions. Menendez was accused of pressuring government officials to resolve a Medicare billing dispute in favor of Dr. Salomon Melgen and securing visas for the doctor’s girlfriends. He said he was innocent. His lawyers said campaign contributions and gifts from Melgen — which included trips on his private jet to a resort in the Dominican Republic and a vacation in Paris — were tokens of their longtime friendship, not bribes. Prosecutors dropped the charges after the mistrial.
Menendez is running for re-election for his New Jersey Senate seat and already facing at least one Democratic challenger in the primary. If Menendez were to step down before the end of his term, New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Philip Murphy, would appoint a successor. Menendez has held public office continuously since 1986, when he was elected mayor of Union City, New Jersey. He was a state legislator and spent 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2006, Gov. Jon Corzine appointed Menendez to the Senate seat he vacated when he became governor. The new indictment outlines a series of texts, payments and actions the couple allegedly took to help the three businessmen, actions from which they financially benefited.
The probe listed several ‘bribes’ paid to them. ‘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,’ the indictment said. A June 2022 raid on their New Jersey home found ‘over $480,000 in cash – much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe,’ the indictment notes, adding Nadine had over $70,000 in a safe deposit box. It also found two one-kilogram gold bars and eleven one-ounce gold bars.
Damian Williams, an attorney with the Southern District of New York, outlined the charges and supporting evidence during a press conference Friday morning, saying the couple used Menendez’s ‘power and influence to protect and enrich the businessmen and benefit the government of Egypt.’ He notes investigators ‘executed a search warrant and discovered over $500,000 worth of cash stuffed into envelopes and the senator’s jackets.’ ‘That is not all. Agents discovered a lot of gold,’ he added. Williams also said Menendez’s work went beyond normal constituent work and that he benefitted from it financially. The indictment alleges that Menendez tried to disrupt a federal criminal prosecution of Fred Daibes in exchange for money and other items of value. Daibes is an old friend of Menendez, has fundraised for his Senate campaign, and allegedly has ties to the Genovese mob family.
The indictment charges Menendez ‘promised to and did use his influence and power’ to pressure President Joe Biden to nominate a U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey who Menendez ‘believed could be influenced by Menendez with respect to the federal criminal prosecution of Fred Daibes.’ Menendez recommended and Biden later nominated Phillip Sellinger as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, the top federal prosecutor in the state. Daibes has been under investigation before. New Jersey authorities have tracked high-ranking mobsters meeting with Daibes repeatedly over the last decade, the Daily Beast reported. Daibes provided the couple with gold bars and envelopes of cash, the indictment states.
‘Multiple gold bars provided by Daibes were found during the court-authorized June 2022 search; of the couple’s home, the indictment states. It also says the senator performed a web search for ‘how much is one kilo of gold worth’ and that the envelopes of cash had the fingerprints of Daibes and his driver. The investigation also focused on 40-year-old New Jersey businessman, Wael Hana, who has known Nadine since before she started dating Menendez. Hana, who is originally from Egypt, operated the company IS EG Halal in New Jersey and it soon became the sole entity authorized to certify that any halal food product imported into Egypt from anywhere in the world had been prepared according to Islamic law.
According to the indictment, Menendez ‘improperly advised and pressured an official at the United States Department of Agriculture for the purpose of protecting a business monopoly granted to Hana by Egypt and used in part to fund the bribes being paid to Menendez through Nadine Menendez.’ The designation of IS EG Halal surprised U.S. agriculture officials. Previously, several other companies had been doing that certification, but they were dismissed by Egyptian agriculture officials in favor of IS EG Halal, which had no previous experience in the field. The indictment charges Menendez with using the power of his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to influence the State Department regarding policy in Egypt and with sending Nadine ‘highly sensitive’ about Egypt that he got in Senate briefings that she, in turn, gave to Hana. As a senator, Menendez could put a ‘hold’ on State Department funding to the country.
In a text to his wife, Menendez tells her: ‘I am going to sign off this sale to Egypt today. Egypt: 46,000 120MM Target Practice Rounds and 10,000 Rounds Tank Ammunition: $99 million.’ Nadine then forwarded it to an Egyptian official who replies with the thumbs up emoji. Egypt has long been a top recipient of U.S. government aid – more than $1 billion a year – but relations between Washington and Cario have been strained by Eygpt’s human rights violations. Now that he is indicted, Menendez will have to step down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rules for the Senate Democratic caucus say that any member who is charged with a felony must step aside from a leadership position. Hana allegedly promised money to Nadine via a no-show job with his company. And, after months of nonpayment, she complained about not receiving the promised funds.
The indictment includes a text from Nadine to a friend: ‘I have been so upset all morning. [Hana] left for Egypt yesterday supposedly and now thinks he’s the king of the world and has both countries wrapped around his pinky. I really hope they replace him.’ Records show Arslanian was battling foreclosure on her Bergen County property in 2018. When she and Menendez got engaged, it began a period of financial turnaround for her. Within weeks of their engagement, she incorporated a business, Strategic International Business Consultants LLC, according to state records. Her foreclosure case was dismissed soon after. The following year, her assets included gold bars valued between $100,000 to $250,000, according to a Senate disclosure form amended by Menendez in March of 2022. Between April and June of 2022, the couple sold between $200,000 and $400,000 worth of gold bars, while keeping at least $250,000 worth of them.
Businessman Jose Uribe allegedly bought Menendez and Nadine the luxury vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible worth more than $60,000. In exchange, Menendez ‘agreed and sought to interfere in a New Jersey state criminal prosecution of an associate of Uribe,’ the indictment states. Uribe provided Nadine Menendez with $15,000 in cash for the down payment for the Mercedes and then paid the monthly payment for her. After she had possession of the car, Uribe texted her: ‘Are you happy?’ She responded, ‘I will never forget this.’ She also texted her husband, after the purchase was complete: ‘Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes,’ with a heart emoji. Read the full story:https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12550703/Bob-Menendez-denies-charges-refuses-resign-prosecuted-latin-american.html?ito=msngallery
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