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Washington D.C.
Sunday, July 21, 2024

Senator Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Menendez, His Wife, and Three N.J. Businessmen Charged With Bribery Offenses

In exchange for things of value, Menendez allegedly agreed to use his power and influence as a senator to seek to protect Egyptian business interests and to benefit the Government of Egypt. 

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James Smith, the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that an Indictment was unsealed this morning charging U.S. Senator ROBERT MENENDEZ, his wife NADINE MENENDEZ, a/k/a “Nadine Arslanian,” and three New Jersey businessmen, WAEL HANA, a/k/a “Will Hana,” JOSE URIBE, and FRED DAIBES, with participating in a years-long bribery scheme.  The Indictment alleges that MENENDEZ and his wife, NADINE MENENDEZ, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES in exchange for MENENDEZ’s agreement to use his official position to protect and enrich them and to benefit the Government of Egypt.  Among other things, MENENDEZ agreed and sought to pressure a senior official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an effort to protect a business monopoly granted to HANA by Egypt, disrupt a criminal case undertaken by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office related to associates of URIBE, and disrupt a federal criminal prosecution brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey against DAIBES.  MENENDEZ, NADINE MENENDEZ, HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES are expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at 10:30 a.m.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As the grand jury charged, between 2018 and 2022, Senator Menendez and his wife engaged in a corrupt relationship with Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes – three New Jersey businessmen who collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz, and other things of value – in exchange for Senator Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt.  My Office is firmly committed to rooting out corruption, without fear or favor, and without any regard to partisan politics.  We will continue to do so.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge James Smith said: “The FBI has made investigating public corruption a top priority since our founding — nothing has changed.  The alleged conduct in this conspiracy damages the public’s faith in our system of government and brings undue scorn to the honest and dedicated public servants who carry out their duties on a daily basis.  To those inclined to use the status of their public office for personal benefit, or those willing to provide bribes in an attempt to gain influence from a public official, the FBI will ensure that you face the consequences in the criminal justice system for your underhanded dealings.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:[1]

ROBERT MENENDEZ is the senior U.S. Senator from New Jersey and currently the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (“SFRC”).  NADINE MENENDEZ began dating MENENDEZ in February 2018, they became engaged in October 2019, and they married in October 2020.  Shortly after they began dating in 2018, NADINE MENENDEZ introduced MENENDEZ to her long-time friend WAEL HANA, who is originally from Egypt, lived in New Jersey, and maintained close connections with Egyptian officials.  HANA was also business associates with FRED DAIBES, a New Jersey real estate developer and long-time donor to MENENDEZ, and JOSE URIBE, who worked in the New Jersey insurance and trucking business.

Between 2018 and 2022, MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ agreed to and did accept hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of bribes from HANA, DAIBES, and URIBE.  These bribes included gold, cash, a luxury convertible, payments toward NADINE MENENDEZ’s home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job for NADINE MENENDEZ, home furnishings, and other things of value.  In June 2022, the FBI executed a search warrant at the New Jersey home of MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ.  During that search, the FBI found many of the fruits of this bribery scheme, including cash, gold, the luxury convertible, and home furnishings.  Over $480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe — was discovered in the home, as well as over $70,000 in cash in NADINE MENENDEZ’s safe deposit box, which was also searched pursuant to a separate search warrant.  Some of the envelopes contained the fingerprints and/or DNA of DAIBES or his driver.  Other of the envelopes were found inside jackets bearing MENENDEZ’s name and hanging in his closet, as depicted below.

Picture of jacket bearing Menendez’s name with money on top of it
Picture of jacket bearing Menendez’s name with money on top of it

During this same search, agents also found home furnishings provided by HANA and DAIBES, the luxury vehicle paid for by URIBE parked in the garage, as well as over one hundred thousand dollars’ worth of gold bars in the home, which were provided by either HANA or DAIBES.  Two of the gold bars DAIBES provided are depicted in the photographs below.

Picture of gold bar
Picture of gold bar

In exchange for these and other things of value, MENENDEZ agreed to use his power and influence as a Senator to seek to protect HANA, URIBE, and DAIBES’s interests and to benefit the Government of Egypt.  Through this corrupt relationship, MENENDEZ agreed to take a series of official acts and breaches of his official duty.  First, MENENDEZ took actions to benefit the Government of Egypt and HANA, including by improperly pressuring an official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to seek to protect a business monopoly granted to HANA by Egypt.  Second, MENENDEZ took actions seeking to disrupt a criminal investigation undertaken by the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General (“NJAG”) related to URIBE and his associates.  Third, MENENDEZ recommended that the President nominate a U.S. Attorney who MENENDEZ believed he could influence with respect to DAIBES and sought to disrupt a federal criminal prosecution undertaken by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey (“USAO-DNJ”) of DAIBES.

Promised Actions to Benefit Egypt and Pressure the USDA

Shortly after she began dating MENENDEZ in 2018, NADINE MENENDEZ worked with HANA to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to MENENDEZ.  Those introductions helped establish a corrupt agreement in which HANA, with assistance from DAIBES and URIBE, provided bribes to MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ in exchange for MENENDEZ’s actions to benefit Egypt and HANA, among others.

As part of the scheme, MENENDEZ provided sensitive, non-public U.S. government information to Egyptian officials and otherwise took steps to secretly aid the Government of Egypt.  For example, in or about May 2018, MENENDEZ provided Egyptian officials with non-public information regarding the number and nationality of persons serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.  Although this information was not classified, it was deemed highly sensitive because it could pose significant operational security concerns if disclosed to a foreign government or made public.  Without telling his professional staff or the State Department that he was doing so, on or about May 7, 2018, MENENDEZ texted that sensitive, non-public embassy information to his then-girlfriend NADINE MENENDEZ, who forwarded the message to HANA, who forwarded it to an Egyptian government official.  Later that same month, MENENDEZ ghost-wrote a letter on behalf of Egypt to other U.S. Senators advocating for them to release a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt.  MENENDEZ sent this ghost-written letter to NADINE MENENDEZ, who forwarded it to HANA, who sent it to Egyptian officials.

At various times between 2018 and 2022, MENENDEZ also conveyed to Egyptian officials, through NADINE MENENDEZ, HANA, and/or DAIBES, that he would approve or remove holds on foreign military financing and sales of military equipment to Egypt in connection with his leadership role on the SFRC.  For example, in or about July 2018, following meetings between MENENDEZ and Egyptian officials, which were arranged and attended by NADINE MENENDEZ and HANA, MENENDEZ texted NADINE MENENDEZ that she should tell HANA that MENENDEZ was going to sign off on a multimillion-dollar weapons sale to Egypt.  NADINE MENENDEZ forwarded this text to HANA, who forwarded it to two Egyptian officials, one of whom replied with a “thumbs up” emoji.  MENENDEZ made similar communications over the ensuing years.  For example, in January 2022, MENENDEZ sent NADINE MENENDEZ a link to a news article reporting on two pending foreign military sales to Egypt totaling approximately $2.5 billion.  NADINE MENENDEZ forwarded this link to HANA, writing, “Bob had to sign off on this.”

In exchange for MENENDEZ’s agreement to take these and other actions, HANA promised NADINE MENENDEZ payments, including from IS EG Halal Certified, Inc. (“IS EG Halal”), a New Jersey company that HANA operated with financial support and backing from DAIBES.  However, IS EG Halal had little to no revenue until the spring of 2019, when the Government of Egypt granted IS EG Halal a monopoly on the certification of U.S. food exports to Egypt as compliant with halal standards, despite the fact that neither HANA nor his company had experience with halal certification.  The monopoly generated revenue for HANA, through which he paid NADINE MENENDEZ as promised.

Because the monopoly resulted in increased costs for U.S. meat suppliers, in or about April and May 2019, the USDA contacted the Government of Egypt and sought reconsideration of its grant of monopoly rights to IS EG Halal.  After being briefed on the USDA’s objections to IS EG Halal’s monopoly by HANA and NADINE MENENDEZ, on May 23, 2019, MENENDEZ called a high-level USDA official (“Official-1”) and insisted that the USDA stop opposing IS EG Halal’s status as sole halal certifier.  When Official-1 attempted to explain why the monopoly was detrimental to U.S. interests, MENENDEZ reiterated his demand that the USDA stop interfering with IS EG Halal’s monopoly.  Official-1 did not accede to MENENDEZ’s demand, but IS EG Halal nevertheless kept its monopoly.

After financially benefitting from IS EG Halal’s monopoly, HANA, at times with the assistance of DAIBES and URIBE, provided payments and other things of value in furtherance of the scheme.  For example, in or about July 2019, after the mortgage company for the residence of NADINE MENENDEZ initiated foreclosure proceedings, HANA caused IS EG Halal to pay approximately $23,000 to bring the mortgage current.  HANA did so after a series of discussions with NADINE MENENDEZ, as well as URIBE and DAIBES, about various options for bringing the mortgage current.  Later in 2019, HANA and DAIBES caused IS EG Halal to issue three $10,000 checks to NADINE MENENDEZ for a low-or-no-show job.  As the scheme continued, including through the additional actions described below, MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ received additional bribes, including gold and cash.

Promised Actions Seeking to Disrupt the NJAG Criminal Case

Also in 2019, HANA and URIBE offered to help buy a new Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible worth more than $60,000 for MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ.  In exchange, MENENDEZ agreed and sought to interfere in the NJAG’s criminal insurance fraud prosecution of an associate of URIBE and a related investigation involving an employee of URIBE.  On multiple occasions in 2019, URIBE, HANA, and/or NADINE MENENDEZ briefed MENENDEZ regarding the NJAG’s insurance fraud prosecution and investigation.  Following those briefings, and in exchange for the promise of the luxury convertible, MENENDEZ contacted a senior state prosecutor at the NJAG’s Office who supervised the prosecution and investigation (“Official-2”) at least twice.  During those communications, MENENDEZ attempted to pressure Official-2 to resolve the prosecution more favorably to the defendant.  Official-2 considered MENENDEZ’s actions inappropriate and did not agree to intervene.  Nevertheless, the prosecution was ultimately resolved with a plea allowing for no jail time and the investigation never resulted in any charges against URIBE’s employee.

In exchange for MENENDEZ’s actions, URIBE provided NADINE MENENDEZ with $15,000 cash for the down payment on the luxury convertible in April 2019.  After the purchase was complete, NADINE MENENDEZ messaged MENENDEZ, “Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes.❤️” and texted MENENDEZ the below photograph of the convertible:

Picture of Mercedes-Benz convertible

Thereafter, URIBE made monthly payments to Mercedes-Benz for the convertible between 2019 and June 2022.  URIBE only stopped making those monthly payments after the FBI approached MENENDEZ, NADINE MENENDEZ, and URIBE in connection with this investigation.

Promised Actions Seeking to Disrupt the USAO-DNJ Criminal Case

In October 2018, the USAO-DNJ charged DAIBES with federal criminal charges for obtaining loans under false pretenses from a New Jersey-based bank he founded.  Between December 2020 and 2022, MENENDEZ agreed to attempt to influence the pending federal prosecution of DAIBES in exchange for cash, furniture, and gold bars that DAIBES provided to MENENDEZ and NADINE MENDENDEZ.  In furtherance of this aspect of the scheme, MENENDEZ recommended that the President nominate an individual (“Official-3”) as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey who MENENDEZ believed he could influence with respect to DAIBES’s case.  MENENDEZ also had direct and indirect contact with both Official-3 and another high-ranking official at the USAO-DNJ (“Official-4”) in an attempt to influence the outcome of DAIBES’s case.

Official-3 and Official-4 did not pass on to the USAO-DNJ prosecution team handling the DAIBES prosecution the fact that MENENDEZ had contacted them, and they did not treat the case any differently as a result of MENENDEZ’s actions.  DAIBES’s case was ultimately resolved with a plea agreement that provided for a probationary sentence.  In exchange for MENENDEZ’s participation in the bribery scheme, DAIBES provided MENENDEZ and NADINE MENENDEZ with multiple things of value, including the two one-kilogram gold bars pictured below.

Picture of gold bars

*                *                *

ROBERT MENENDEZ, 69, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

NADINE MENENDEZ, 56, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

WAEL HANA, 40, formerly of Edgewater, New Jersey, and originally of Egypt, JOSE URIBE, 56, of Clifton, New Jersey, and FRED DAIBES, 66, of Edgewater, New Jersey, are all charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI.  Mr. Williams thanked the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation for its invaluable assistance on the investigation.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eli J. Mark, Paul Monteleoni, Lara Pomerantz, and Daniel C. Richenthal are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This investigation remains ongoing.  If you have information regarding the charges or defendants in the Indictment, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI and reference this case.

Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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