Key players in the case against Bob Menendez, his wife and two businessmen

A three-term senator, his wife, a halal meat-certifying company owner and real estate tycoon are the key defendants in the government’s case about bribery, fraud and political corruption. Ariana Baio breaks down the key players in the bribery trial

Monday 13 May 2024 21:29 BST
US Senator Bob Menendez leaves with his wife Nadine Menendez the Manhattan Federal Court, in New York City following his arraignment on 11 March 2024
US Senator Bob Menendez leaves with his wife Nadine Menendez the Manhattan Federal Court, in New York City following his arraignment on 11 March 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

The government’s sprawling corruption case against New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, his wife and two New Jersey businessmen of brazenly engaging in bribery has begun in federal court in Manhattan.

Over the next six to seven weeks, federal prosecutors are expected to argue that Mr Menendez used his political influence and power to provide favors for the businessmen as well as aid officials in Egypt in exchange for lavish bribes.

It comes months after federal prosecutors unveiled three separate indictments, amounting to 18 criminal charges, against Mr Menendez, his wife Nadine Menendez, and businessmen Fred Daibes and Wael Hana.

Each is accused of playing a part in a years-long bribery scheme that intended to wield Mr Menendez’s political influence as a senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to obtain deals with officials in Qatar and Egypt.

As the trial kicks off, here are the key players to know.

Robert “Bob” Menendez

The senator-turned-defendant

Bob Menendez, the New Jersey senator indicted in a corruption scandal (Getty Images)

Mr Menendez, 70, is a three-term Democratic US Senator from New Jersey who formerly chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is accused of accepting lavish bribes in exchange for wielding his political influence for favors.

Federal prosecutors say Mr Menendez and his wife took gold bars, luxury jewelry and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, among others, to help two New Jersey businessmen secure deals with officials from Egypt and Qatar.

In addition, prosecutors say the New Jersey senator tried to influence criminal cases in New Jersey and complete favors for the Egyptian government.

He has been charged with 16 crimes, including bribery, acting as a foreign agent, obstruction of justice and more. He has pleaded not guilty.

This is the second time Mr Menendez has been investigated and indicted in a corruption scheme. He was charged with bribery in 2015 but the charges were dismissed when it ended in a mistrial.

Nadine Menendez

The senator’s wife

Nadine Menendez, the wife of Senator Bob Menendez, indicted in a corruption scandal (Getty Images)

Ms Menendez (née Arslanian), 57, is the wife of Mr Menendez. She is also accused of accepting bribes to use her husband’s political influence for favors. She faces 15 charges, including bribery and obstruction of justice.

Her role is at the heart of the indictment and, possibly, Mr Menendez’s defence.

Prosecutors allege that shortly after Ms Menendez began dating Mr Menendez in 2018 she began offering up her then-boyfriend’s political influence to help her friend Wael Hana and eventually served as a messenger between her friend, her husband and Egyptian officials.

She has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Her trial will be separate from Mr Menendez’s, beginning sometime this summer.

Fred Daibes

The real estate developer

Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer indicted in a bribery scandal (Getty Images)

Mr Daibes, 66, is a New Jersey real estate developer who is accused of giving Mr Menendez gold and cash in exchange for his help with a criminal investigation and securing investors in a development project.

He is charged with seven crimes including bribery, honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justices and more. He has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Mr Daibes sought Mr Menendez’s help to secure a financial investor for a residential skyscraper project in Edgewater, New Jersey. He was eventually introduced to a Qatari investor who was also a member of the Qatari royal family.

Additionally, the government claims Mr Daibes tried to have Mr Menendez intervene in a separate federal bank fraud case.

Wael Hana

The halal meat-certifying businessman

Wael Hana, the New Jersey businessman indicted in a bribery scheme alongside Senator Bob Menendez (Getty Images)

Mr Hana, 40, is an Egyptian-born American businessman who is accused of giving Mr Menendez gold bars, cash and more to secure a lucrative deal for his halal meat-certifying company with Egyptian officials.

Prosecutors allege that Mr Hana used his company, IS EG Halal to funnel bribes to the Menendezes and influenced the senator from New Jersey to make favorable decisions for Egypt.

He has been charged with six crimes, including bribery, honest services wire fraud, conspiring for a public official to act as a foreign agent and more. Mr Hana has pleaded not guilty.

Jose Uribe

The defendant turned witness

Jose Uribe, a former insurance broker indicted alongside Senator Bob Menendez. He later struck a plea deal with prosecutors (Getty Images)

Mr Uribe, 56, is a former New Jersey insurance broker, indicted alongside Mr Menendez and his co-defendants who took a plea deal with prosecutors.

In the initial indictments, the government said Mr Uribe facilitated payments that ultimately paid for the Menendezes’ $60,000 Mercedes-Benz convertible in exchange for the senator intervening in a criminal investigation into several of Mr Uribe’s associates.

In March, Mr Uribe pled guilty to seven crimes, including conspiracy to commit bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

He agreed to cooperate with the government and revealed to prosecutors the Menendezeses attempted to cover up the bribe payments by misrepresenting them as loans after they realized they were under investigation.

He will likely serve as a witness for the prosecution.

Sidney Stein

The judge

Judge Stein, 78, a senior judge for the Southern District of New York court, is presiding over the corruption case against Mr Menendez and his co-defendants.

He was appointed to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and has been described as a “down-the-middle fair judge” who maintains a calm demeanor.

Judge Stein has overseen the case against Real Housewives of Salt Lake City star Jennifer Shah.

Damien Williams

The prosecutor

Damien Williams, the US assistant attorney for the Southern District of New York (Getty Images)

Mr Williams, 44, is an assistant attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). He brought the charges against Mr Menendez and his co-defendants.

He joined the US attorney’s office in 2021 and became the first African-American US attorney for SDNY when President Joe Biden named him in 2021.

Mr Williams also oversaw the prosecutions of the disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and convicted sex offender Ghisalane Maxwell.

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