(The Center Square) — New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife have been charged with federal bribery offenses in connection with a “corrupt relationship” with three New Jersey businessmen, the Justice Department announced on Friday.
The three-count indictment, unsealed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York on Friday, alleges that Menendez and his wife, Nadine, received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes beginning in 2018 in exchange for using the senator’s influence to enrich the businessmen, one of whom has ties to the Egyptian government.
Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, received bribes including cash, gold, luxury vehicles, mortgage payments and other forms of compensation, according to Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
At a briefing, Williams said Menendez engaged in the bribery despite posting claims on his official Senate website that he wasn’t allowed to accept money for political favors, compel a federal agency to act on someone’s behalf or get involved in criminal matters.
“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,” Williams told reporters.
He said a search of Menendez’s home and safe deposit box in 2022 turned up nearly $500,000 in cash — stuffed into envelopes inside jackets emblazoned with Menendez’s name — and gold bars, along with a brand new Mercedes Benz.
The charges against Menendez and his business associates — Will Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes — follow a yearlong corruption probe led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Williams and FBI officials didn’t take questions from the press during Friday’s live-streamed announcement on the indictments, but said the investigation is ongoing.
A key part of the indictment alleges the Democrat sought to sway President Joe Biden’s choice of a top federal prosecutor in New Jersey to benefit one of his business associates and pressured the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help Hana, an Egyptian businessman, to preserve a monopoly over the U.S. Halal market.
But the indictment also alleges that Menendez disclosed “non-public information about military aid” to Egypt to individuals who later passed the details onto the Egyptian government.
Menendez also helped write a letter on behalf of the government of Egypt seeking “to convince other U.S. Senators to release a hold on $300 million in aid” to the country, the indictment alleges.
Menendez’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
When the investigation was first revealed in May, Menendez vigorously denied wrongdoing.
This is the second time the New Jersey Democrat has been indicted since he was first elected to the Senate in 2006.
In 2015, he was charged with illegally accepting favors from a Florida physician, including trips on a private jet, vacations to Paris and more than $700,000 in political contributions.
The case ended in a mistrial after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict. Following the mistrial, a federal judge acquitted Menendez and co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen of several of the charges in 2018. The Justice Department dropped the remaining charges against the senator.
Menendez is up for re-election in the 2024 elections, when Democrats seek to retain control of the Senate. In 2018, he was elected to a third term with 54% of the vote, according to New Jersey election results.