NJ Senator Menendez Accused in Bribery Case Involving Gold, Cash, and Luxury Vehicle

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was charged on Friday, September 22, with accepting large bribes in exchange for using his power to benefit three New Jersey businessmen and the Egyptian government.

A three-count federal indictment was announced by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Damian Williams.

Menendez was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but resigned the chairmanship on Friday after the indictment was announced.

The indictment alleges that from 2018 to 2022, Sen Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes-Benz, and other things of value” from three New Jersey businessmen – Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes – in exchange for Menendez using power and influence “to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt,” Williams said.

The indictment says Nadine Menendez is a longtime friend of Wael Hana and that Hana, who is originally from Egypt, has “maintained close connections with Egyptian officials.”

When the FBI searched the Menendez home in June 2022, they found gold bars worth more than $100,000, a convertible vehicle purchased by Uribe, over $480,000 in cash – “much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe” – and over $70,000 in cash in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box, the SDNY said.

Nadine Menendez is accused of acting as a go-between and of passing sensitive, non-public information to Egyptian officials, such as “the number and nationality of persons serving at the US Embassy in Cairo.”

Sen Menendez is accused of ghost-writing a letter on behalf of Egypt to other US Senators “advocating for them to release a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt” and conveying to Egyptian officials that he would “approve or remove holds on foreign military financing and sales of military equipment to Egypt,” among other actions.

This is the second time the senator has been indicted while in office. He was reelected after the charges in his first indictment were dropped in 2018. Credit: SDNY via Storyful

Video transcript

DAMIAN WILLIAMS: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for coming. My name is Damian Williams and I'm the United States Attorney here in the Southern District of New York. Today, I am announcing that my office has obtained a three-count indictment charging Senator Robert Menendez, his wife Nadine Menendez, and three New Jersey businessmen, Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes for bribery offenses. The investigation that led to these charges has been run out of the Southern District of New York.

The indictment alleges that between 2018 and 2022, Senator Menendez, the Senior US Senator from New Jersey and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his wife Nadine Menendez, engaged in a corrupt relationship with Hana, Uribe, and Daibes. The indictment alleges that through that relationship, the Senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for Senator Menendez using his power and influence to protect and to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt.

The indictment alleges that Hana, Uribe, and Daibes provided bribes in the form of cash, gold, home mortgage payments, a low-show or a no-show job for Nadine Menendez, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value to the Senator and his wife. Now, constituent service is part of any legislator's job. Senator Menendez is no different.

And as we explain in the indictment, there are things that Senator Menendez says he can do for his constituents and things that he says he cannot do for his constituents. He put it all on his Senate website. So for instance, it says he cannot compel an agency to act in someone's favor. It says he cannot influence matters involving a private business.

It says he cannot get involved in criminal matters or cases period. But we allege that behind the scenes, Senator Menendez was doing those things for certain people, the people who were bribing him and his wife. And let me say a little bit more about the conduct that's alleged in the indictment. The indictment alleges that Senator Menendez took several actions as part of this corrupt relationship.

First, the indictment alleges that Senator Menendez used his power and influence, including his leadership role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to benefit the government of Egypt in various ways. Among other actions, Senator Menendez allegedly provided sensitive, nonpublic, US government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the government of Egypt. We also allege that Senator Menendez improperly pressured a senior official at the US Department of Agriculture to protect a lucrative monopoly that the government of Egypt had awarded to Hana. A lucrative monopoly that Hana then used to fund certain bribe payments.

Second, the indictment alleges that Senator Menendez used his power and influence to try to disrupt a criminal investigation and prosecution undertaken by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office related to an associate and a relative of Uribe. Third, the indictment alleges that Senator Menendez used his power and influence to try to disrupt a federal prosecution of Daibes in the District of New Jersey in two ways. First, by seeking to install a United States Attorney who he thought could be influenced with respect to Daibes, and second, by trying to influence that office to act favorably in Daibes' case.

And as we allege in the indictment, the Senator agreed to do these things and use his power in this way because Hana was paying bribes, because Uribe was paying bribes, and because Daibes was paying bribes. Fortunately, the public officials the Senator sought to influence did not bend to the pressure. That's a good thing. Now, as part of this investigation, special agents with the FBI executed search warrants on the residence and safe deposit box of Senator Menendez and Nadine Menendez in New Jersey.

When they got there, they discovered approximately $500,000 of cash stuffed into envelopes in closets. Some of the cash was stuffed in the senator's jacket pockets. And some of the cash, some of the envelopes of cash contained Daibes' fingerprints or Daibes' DNA. That's not all.

Agents also discovered a lot of gold, gold that was provided by Daibes and Hana. And the FBI, of course, found the Mercedes Benz that Uribe had provided them. Now, the items that the FBI uncovered are discussed in the indictment, which I encourage all of you to read carefully. Let's take a look at just some of the items.

So as you can see here, this is the Mercedes Benz that we allege that Uribe provided as part of the scheme. What you see here are 3 kilograms of gold. These 3 kilograms together are worth approximately $150,000. And of course, here you can see just a fraction of the cash that was uncovered as part of the scheme.

Now, I want to make a couple of things very clear. First, my office remains firmly committed to rooting out public corruption without fear or favor and without any regard to partisan politics. That's in our DNA. Always has been, always will be. And second, this investigation is very much ongoing.

We are not done. And I want to encourage anyone with information to come forward and to come forward quickly, and they can do that by reaching out to the FBI's tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI. Now, a case of this magnitude requires tremendous partnership and I want to thank our partners at the FBI who have been with us since day one and have been absolutely incredible every step along the way.

I also want to thank our partners at the IRS for their assistance in this investigation. I want to Thank our colleagues from around the Department of Justice who are far too many to name here and to thank specifically, but they have also been invaluable. And of course, I want to thank the career prosecutors from my office who are handling this investigation.

They have done tremendous work. Eli Mark, Lara Pomerantz, Dan Richenthal, Paul Monteleone, and their supervisors, Rebecca Danielewski and Maureen Comey, The Chiefs of our office's Public Corruption Unit. I now want to invite up to the podium FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith. Jim?

JAMES SMITH: Good morning. So I'm not going to go any further into the case, as US attorney Damian Williams explained, but what I want to talk about more or less is, hey, the FBI investigating public corruption is one of our top priorities and we will continue to investigate public corruption cases. I want to thank the agents, the team over here from the FBI, the IRS, for their hard work into this investigation.

They've spent many hours, and days, and weeks, and months working this investigation. I would also like to thank all the prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. I'd like to thank Damian Williams for his support in this particular case.

I would like to thank the IRS for all their investigators who worked tirelessly along with the team here to investigate this case. And I would also finally like to thank the DOJ's Public Integrity Section. So thank you very much for all your support in this.