US Senator Bob Menendez Indicted Again in US Bribery Case

(Bloomberg) -- US Senator Bob Menendez and his wife were re-indicted by federal prosecutors who added obstruction of justice charges to existing criminal counts, greatly expanding the case days after a co-defendant pleaded guilty.

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Prosecutors on Tuesday added 14 counts to the indictment of the New Jersey Democrat, his wife Nadine, and two businessmen from the original four. On top of obstruction, the US also brought new bribery, fraud and foreign agent charges to previous conspiracy allegations.

The new charges, in New York federal court, follow the March 1 guilty plea of businessman Jose Uribe, who is now helping prosecutors. Uribe, 56, said he bribed the senator with a Mercedes-Benz convertible for help in resolving two legal matters. Another businessman is accused of using mortgage payments to bribe the senator through his wife.

Menendez and his wife are accused in the new indictment of directing their lawyers to make false statements to prosecutors about the payments.

Prosecutors said Menendez knew “they were not loans, but bribe payments.”

Menendez called the latest indictment a “flagrant” abuse of power by “overzealous prosecutors.”

“The government has long known that I learned of and helped repay loans — not bribes — that had been provided to my wife,” the senator said in a statement. “These prosecutors are trying to get me to give in simply by making wild allegations again and again, without actually proving anything.”

The latest indictment raises the stakes for Menendez, who has pleaded not guilty and faces a May 6 trial in New York federal court. FBI agents seized 13 gold bars, nearly $500,000 in cash and the Mercedes in a raid on Menendez’s home, and prosecutors displayed that haul in indictment photos that brought widespread condemnation to the senator.

Menendez, 70, stepped down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and hasn’t said if he’ll run for reelection. Tammy Snyder Murphy, wife of Governor Phil Murphy, is running in the Democratic primary in June for his seat against US Representative Andy Kim.

Read More: Menendez Bribery Defense May Lean on ‘Subtle’ Pitch to NJ AG

Prosecutors said in a letter to the court on Tuesday that the new charges shouldn’t delay the May 6 trial.

They have accused Menendez of secretly working on behalf of Egypt by giving Egyptian officials “highly sensitive” information about personnel at the US embassy in Cairo; ghostwriting a letter on Egypt’s behalf urging his Senate colleagues to release a hold on US aid; and pushing the US State Department to get involved in stalled talks on a Nile River dam project.

Aside from Uribe, the Menendezes were indicted with developer Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, an Egyptian American businessman. Menendez allegedly pressed a US Department of Agriculture official to protect the exclusive right Egypt gave to Hana’s company, EG Halal Certified Inc., to certify US food exports as compliant with halal standards.

Menendez accepted cash and gold bars from Daibes, who sought an investment from a Qatari fund for a real estate project, the US alleges. In exchange, Menendez made “multiple public statements” supporting the government of Qatar, prosecutors allege. The new indictment charges Daibes with paying bribes to benefit Qatar.

Read More: Businessman Tells Judge He Bribed Menendez With Mercedes

In pleading guilty, Uribe said he made payments on the car in a way that concealed his involvement. Prosecutors had said Uribe gave Nadine Menendez $15,000 in cash for a down payment on the convertible and made monthly payments for three years. Nadine Menendez needed a new car after she was driving a Mercedes in December 2018 and fatally struck a pedestrian.

The previous indictment included four conspiracy charges. The new charges include bribery, honest services services wire fraud, extortion under the color of law, public official acting as foreign agent, and obstruction. Menendez is charged in 16 of the 18 counts, and his wife is charged in 15. Daibes faces seven counts, and Hana six.

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