Witness in Menendez trial describes setting up mortgage payment and consulting job for senator’s girlfriend-turned-wife

Sen. Bob Menendez’s alleged co-conspirator in a yearslong extortion and bribery scheme ordered his legal counsel to set up a mortgage loan for the New Jersey Democrat’s then-girlfriend and to draft a job contract for her despite her lack of experience, a witness in the federal corruption trial testified this week.

Federal prosecutors have begun to lay the foundation for their case against Menendez and his two co-defendants in a New York courtroom. Through Tuesday, they had called six witnesses – an FBI special agent; a US diplomat; a former State Department employee; the lead counsel for the halal certification company owned by Wael Hana, one of Menendez’s co-defendants; and the executive assistants to Hana and Fred Daibes, Menendez’s other co-defendant. Both executive assistants said they were subpoenaed.

Some of the witnesses have testified about a halal industry scheme in which Menendez and Hana, an Egyptian American businessman, allegedly acted as foreign agents for the Egyptian government. It’s one of several accusations in the sprawling case that also involves the government of Qatar, gold bars and cash seized from the senator’s home, and allegations that he and his girlfriend-turned-wife took bribes in exchange for the senator’s influence.

Menendez and Hana – as well as the other co-defendant, New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes – have pleaded not guilty. Menendez’s wife, Nadine, has also pleaded not guilty and is set to go on trial in July.

John Moldovan, the lead counsel for Hana’s certification business IS EG Halal, testified that Hana ordered him to wire Nadine Menendez a loan to pay the outstanding debt on her home, which was at risk of foreclosure.

In July 2019, Hana wired Moldovan money from IS EG’s account to Moldovan’s personal account and ordered him to issue checks to Nadine Menendez, the lead counsel testified.

Hana also asked him to write a promissory note so that Nadine Menendez would receive about $22,000 to $23,000, with a five-year term to pay back the amount in full, Moldovan testified.

Moldovan said Nadine Menendez was “upset and offended” that Hana had a lawyer formalize the loan with a promissory note. She never signed the agreement, he testified, but she did receive the checks.

Shortly after that, Moldovan testified, Hana told him he planned to give Nadine Menendez a consulting job at IS EG Halal and ordered Moldovan to prepare the job contract, which included payroll of $10,000 a month. Moldovan testified that he rarely did anything without Hana’s approval.

Moldovan said he drafted a contract between IS EG Halal and Strategic International Business Consultants LLC – of which Nadine Menendez was president – despite not having heard of the company.

Moldovan said he never observed Nadine Menendez work or prepare any documents, nor did he hear of anyone speaking about her job performance for the company or other companies.

Nadine Menendez never signed the IS EG job agreement, according to Moldovan. While he also said he didn’t know if she got paid, prosecutors have pointed to three $10,000 checks.

On cross-examination, the senator’s attorney, Avi Weitzman, asked Moldovan if Nadine Menendez ever mentioned she was dating the senator, to which he testified she did not. The pair later married.

Trial proceedings are on pause until after Memorial Day, when Daibes’ executive assistant is expected to return to the witness stand.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com