Gold bars, basement carpeting and more. Here’s what prosecutors say bought off a US senator


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Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey faces his second, distinct bribery and corruption trial in seven years starting Monday.

This new case is a complicated affair involving multiple gold bars, envelopes of cash, a Mercedes and a lot more that, prosecutors say, the powerful former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his new wife (they got married during the alleged bribery scheme) obtained in exchange for helping a halal meat monopoly, granting favors for people from Egypt and Qatar and trying to influence a New Jersey prosecution.

Menendez, who has until June to announce if he’s running for reelection, has pleaded not guilty and denied all of the charges. He told CNN’s Manu Raju on Capitol Hill last week, “I am looking forward to proving my innocence.”

Also pleading not guilty and denying wrongdoing are his wife Nadine, who is also a named as a defendant, and two businessmen, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, who have ties to Egypt and Qatar, respectively. Another man, New Jersey businessman Jose Uribe, on the other hand, has pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

Here’s what prosecutors say the senator and his wife got:

Gold bars

Prosecutors say Hana and Daibes gave Menendez and his wife gold bars, which were seized by the FBI from the Menendez residence. After returning from a trip to Egypt and getting a ride home from the airport from Daibes’ driver, prosecutors say Menendez searched online for the price of a gold bar.

Two of the gold bars found at Menendez's house during a court-authorized search of the home. - US District Court Southern District of New York

Two of the gold bars found at Menendez’s house during a court-authorized search of the home. – US District Court Southern District of New York

Envelopes full of cash

The indictment includes photos of piles of cash next to envelopes spread across jackets on which the senator’s name is embroidered. There are piles of $20 bills and $50 bills in one photo and $100 bills in another photo.

Prosecutors included this photo of a jacket bearing Menendez's name underneath $100 bills. - US District Court Southern District of New York

Prosecutors included this photo of a jacket bearing Menendez’s name underneath $100 bills. – US District Court Southern District of New York

Prosecutors included this photo of a jacket bearing Menendez's name underneath stacks of $20 and $50 bills. - US District Court Southern District of New York

Prosecutors included this photo of a jacket bearing Menendez’s name underneath stacks of $20 and $50 bills. – US District Court Southern District of New York

They also found cash in closets, a safe and Nadine Menendez’s safety deposit box. Some of the envelopes, according to prosecutors, bore fingerprints or DNA belonging to Daibes or his driver.

Total cash discovered: More than $480,000 in the home and more than $70,000 in the safety deposit box.

Later court filings that added charges in the case are more specific, describing bags full of cash being found on top of hangers in the senator’s basement and stuffed into boots in the closet.

Convertible Mercedes

The 2019 vehicle, which prosecutors value at more than $60,000, was parked in the driveway at the Menendez home when it was raided.

The indictment describes Nadine Menendez obtaining $15,000 in cash from Uribe in a parking lot the day before she picked the vehicle up and put $15,000 as a down payment. Uribe is alleged to have then hid his monthly financing payments for the vehicle.

Nadine Menendez purchased the Mercedes-Benz C-class convertible with a $15,000 down payment the day after prosecutors say she was given $15,000 in a parking lot by Uribe. They included this photo in court documents. - US District Court Southern District of New York

Nadine Menendez purchased the Mercedes-Benz C-class convertible with a $15,000 down payment the day after prosecutors say she was given $15,000 in a parking lot by Uribe. They included this photo in court documents. – US District Court Southern District of New York

Later, after the raid, she would write Uribe a $21,000 check, which prosecutors say was an effort at cleanup, making the gift look like a loan.

Nadine Menendez needed a new car, apparently after hitting and killing a jaywalker in Bogota, New Jersey, in December 2018. A police report was filed but she faced no charges.

Mortgage payment

Prosecutors say the senator and his wife also tried to cover up around $23,000 in help Nadine Menendez got from a halal meat company owned by Hana that bailed her out of foreclosure on a mortgage. Reimbursement checks were paid in December 2022, months after the initial raid on the senator’s house.

Payment for low- or no-show work

Hana’s company paid Nadine Menendez $10,000 on three occasions, according to prosecutors. At the time, they allege, she was acting as a sort of go-between for Egyptian officials, Hana and the senator.

Engagement ring

Prosecutors describe a recorded conversation between Hana and a confidential source in which Hana is described as obtaining $150,000 from a man to purchase a car and an engagement ring for Nadine Menendez in exchange for the senator giving a “push” in a New Jersey criminal case that saved the man three years.

Basement carpeting

Prosecutors said in their February court filing that Nadine Menendez arranged for carpeting to be installed in her basement, apparently in exchange for setting up dinners between the senator and officials – and also for his call, according to prosecutors, attempting to interfere in a New Jersey state prosecution.

Furniture

The initial September 2023 indictment makes several mentions of furniture and furnishings provided by Hana and Daibes but does not go into specifics.

Formula One tickets

In a superseding indictment filed in March, prosecutors allege Menendez obtained tickets to Formula One races in 2022 and 2023 for Nadine Menendez’s relative. Menendez made comments supportive of Qatar during that period and lobbied Qatari officials to invest in Daibes’ real estate venture, which they ultimately did.

Daibes is described as sending the senator pictures of luxury watches priced between roughly $10,000 and $24,000, but it is not clear from the filing if Menendez ever obtained a timepiece.

What’s the quid pro quo?

There is a long list of actions prosecutors say Menendez undertook in exchange for all of these alleged bribes. They allege Menendez, in his prior role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

… lobbied the US Department of Agriculture to maintain Hana’s monopoly on US halal meat exports to Egypt, even though it drove up prices.

… met with Egyptian officials in exchange for cash.

… gave Hana not-classified but also not-public information about employees at the US embassy in Egypt.

… passed on information about US military sales to Egypt to Hana and signed off on certain sales.

… lobbied Qataris on behalf of Daibes’ real estate scheme and supported resolutions in the Senate supportive of Qatar.

… tried to influence court cases in New Jersey related to Uribe and his associates. Uribe, recall, is now cooperating with prosecutors.

… tried to disrupt a federal prosecution of Daibes.

Again, Menendez denies all the charges, and the jury that will get to hear his side of the story will begin to be selected in New York starting Monday. Nadine Menendez’s trial is slated for July.

Perhaps Menendez and his wife can convincingly argue the mortgage and car payments were a loan. Perhaps Menendez will argue he did not know about payments related to dinners and meetings organized by his wife. The envelopes of cash prosecutors say bore Daibes’ fingerprints may be more difficult to explain.

Menendez escaped previous bribery charge

Menendez is used to being under the microscope of federal prosecutors. The Department of Justice ultimately decided not to retry Menendez in 2018 after a previous jury deadlocked over whether he accepted trips and gifts from a friend, an ophthalmologist named Salomon Melgen.

Melgen went to prison in a separate Medicare fraud scheme, but that sentence was commuted by then-President Donald Trump after lobbying by Menendez on Melgen’s behalf.

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