Federal bribery charges against Senator Robert Menendez and his wife tied to their alleged “corrupt relationship” with three New Jersey businessmen — Wael “Will” Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibe —were announced Friday by Justice Department officials.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in the Southern District of New York held a news conference on the second federal indictment of Menendez on bribery and corruption charges under a Democratic president, this time for allegedly pressuring an Agriculture Department official and interfering in an investigation.
Officials said the senator is scheduled to make his first appearance in Manhattan federal court Wednesday.
Prosecutors say Menendez and his wife, Nadine, agreed to and accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes in exchange for using the senator’s “power and influence” to benefit the Government of Egypt and Hana, and also enrich Uribe and Daibe.
The indictment also includes photos of cash with Menendez’s clothing, and gold bars found during a court-authorized search of the senator’s New Jersey home.
Williams said that Menendez’s own Senate website details actions he can’t engage in as a senator, such as compelling an agency to act in someone’s favor or involving himself 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,” said Williams.
Menendez faces three counts, including conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, a charge for public officials who take bribes in return for official acts.
Around June 2022, federal agents executed search warrants on both the New Jersey residence and the safe deposit box belonging to Robert Menendez and Nadine Menendez, also known as “Nadine Arslanian,” who are the defendants in the case.
During these court-authorized searches, agents uncovered various items —including cash, gold, a luxury vehicle, and home furnishings— that were the result of the couple’s corrupt bribery arrangement with Hana, Uribe, and Daibes, who are also defendants in the case.
Inside the residence, agents discovered over $480,000 in cash, with a significant portion of it concealed within envelopes and hidden in various places such as clothing, closets, and a safe. Additionally, more than $70,000 was found in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box. Notably, some of the envelopes containing cash bore the fingerprints and/or DNA of Daibes or his driver.
“Senator Menendez says he can do for his constituents and things that he says he cannot do for his constituents,” said Williams. “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,” said Williams. “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.”
Federal prosecutors previously tried Menendez on corruption charges related to his exchange of cash, air travel, and other gifts from a Florida eye doctor who bilked Medicare for more than $100 million.
That trial ended in November 2017 with a deadlocked jury, but Menendez’s co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen, was convicted by a jury in Florida for perpetrating the biggest health care fraud scheme in history and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
The senator, who easily won re-election in November 2018 after surviving a spirited primary challenge from progressive Democrat Lisa McCormick, later convinced President Donald Trump to free Melgen on the Republican’s last day in the White House.
According to the indictment Uribe then got into the trucking industry after he lost his insurance broker’s license for being convicted of fraud in New Jersey, where he was accused of taking $77,000 in premiums from seven clients but failing to purchase the insurance.
Uribe is charged with providing Nadine Menendez with a luxury car, a Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible, in exchange for the senator intervening with the state attorney general’s office on behalf of an associate, who faced criminal prosecution in New Jersey.
The lawmaker contacted a senior state prosecutor, according to the indictment, “in an attempt, through advice and pressure” to “resolve these matters favorably.”
Hana, 40, has known Nadine Menendez since before she began dating the senator. They socialized together at restaurants in Bergen County with a small circle of friends.
Although he had no experience in the industry, Hana, an Egyptian-American dual citizen who was born in Egypt, began operating a halal meat certification company in New Jersey in the spring of 2019.
By January 2020, the company, IS EG Halal, was the sole entity authorized by the Egyptian government to certify that any halal food product imported into Egypt from anywhere in the world had been prepared according to Islamic law.
Hana’s firm secured a mysterious monopoly on the Egyptian meat supply. Halal means that all ingredients contained within have been checked against strict criteria set out by religious leaders.
The arrangement did not require the approval of the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. but it meant that four U.S.-based halal meat certification companies that for years had previously shared the work lost that business overnight.
In November 2019, federal agents searched Hana’s home and office, seizing computers, cellphones, paperwork, and jewelry, according to legal papers his lawyer, Lawrence S. Lustberg, filed to retrieve the items.
IS EG Halal operates from a small building overlooking the Hudson River in Edgewater, in a building owned by a company run by Daibes, who has an office at the same location.
Hana and Nadine Menendez introduced Egyptian intelligence and military officials to Senator Menendez for the purpose of establishing and solidifying a corrupt agreement, in which the three businessmen funneled payoffs to the couple.
Daibes, a prominent real estate developer based in Edgewater, lived in a Palestinian refugee camp for 10 years before emigrating to the United States as a child. He worked his way up from washing dishes in a New Jersey restaurant to acquiring wealth so vast that in 2013 several people were charged with beating him and stealing millions of dollars worth of gold and jewelry from his penthouse apartment.
Five years later, Daibes was charged in a bank fraud scheme with a 14-count federal indictment. Last year, he pleaded guilty to a single count of making false entries in connection with a loan document.
Prosecutors said it was part of a scheme by which he obtained the proceeds of an insider loan from Mariner’s Bank, which he founded and where he had served as chairman. The $1.8 million loan was paid back, and the plea agreement, approved by prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey, did not call for prison time. Daibes’s sentencing has been delayed four times, most recently in July.
While awaiting sentencing, the judge granted Daibes permission to travel to London and Qatar to meet with potential lenders for a real estate project at 115 River Road in Edgewater, which had lost its financing after getting bogged down in a delayed environmental cleanup.
Bergen County property records show he finalized a $45 million shared-ownership agreement for the Edgewater project with a company founded by a member of Qatar’s royal family in January.
The Daily Beast reported that a Menendez-backing businessman who lawyered up to deal with the probe sealed a $45 million deal with royalty from a country the New Jersey Democrat has smiled upon from his perch atop Foreign Relations Committee: Qatar.
The U.S. arranged over $26 billion in active government-to-government transfers of military equipment from the Department of Defense (DoD) to Qatar under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system making Qatar the second largest FMS partner in the world.
Since 2016, the U.S. has also authorized the permanent export of over $2.8 billion in defense articles to Qatar via the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) process.