Sen. Bob Menendez's wife is at center of corruption allegations

Washington — Prosecutors say Nadine Menendez, the wife of Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, was central to orchestrating the alleged scheme that ended in bribery charges against her and the senator, whose political career and freedom are on the line as his trial got underway this week. 

Originally scheduled to be tried with her husband, Nadine Menendez’s trial is now expected to take place later this summer because of a “serious medical condition” that requires surgery and weeks of recovery. 

The senator’s lawyers have indicated in court filings that he could defend himself in part by claiming his wife “withheld information” from him about her dealings with three New Jersey businessmen and “led him to believe that nothing unlawful was taking place.” 

Nadine Arslanian wife of US Senator representing New Jersey
Nadine Menendez, the wife of Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, leaves a federal court in New York on Sept. 27, 2023, after pleading not guilty to bribery charges. 

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In four indictments, prosecutors alleged that the senator and his wife accepted bribes from the businessmen and then took actions that benefitted the governments of Egypt and Qatar and meddled in criminal investigations. The longtime lawmaker faces 16 felony counts, while his wife faces 15. Both have pleaded not guilty. 

But one of the accused businessmen, Jose Uribe, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators. The other two — Wael Hana and Fred Daibes — are on trial with the senator and have also pleaded not guilty. 

The senator began dating Nadine Arslanian, a tall blonde who was born in Lebanon and 13 years his junior, in 2018. The two met at an IHOP in Union City, New Jersey, though there are different timelines for that first meeting — and some media reports say the two knew each other years before they started dating.

Shortly after their relationship began, according to prosecutors, she and her friend Hana introduced the senator to Egyptian intelligence and military officials, arranging dinners at expensive restaurants and meetings in his Senate office. 

“What else can the love of my life do for you?” she allegedly asked at one of those dinners at a Washington steakhouse. 

“Anytime you need anything you have my number and we will make everything happen,” she texted an Egyptian official who was seeking the senator’s help on a foreign policy issue important to the African country, according to prosecutors. 

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Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine, arrive for a reception honoring Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the White House on May 16, 2022. 

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Nadine Menendez and Hana were intermediaries between the senator and Egyptian officials, passing along sensitive, nonpublic information to the Egyptians about the number of people stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and their nationalities, as well as nonpublic details about military aid to the country, the indictments said. When an Egyptian official wanted help drafting a letter to lobby the senator’s colleagues to support U.S. aid to Egypt, Nadine Menendez allegedly asked the senator to write it because the official and Hana had gotten her “clearance for a project.” 

It was the beginning of a scheme that would pave the way for lucrative deals between the businessmen and the governments of Qatar and Egypt, and included interference in criminal investigations involving the businessmen and their allies, according to the indictments. In exchange, the Menedezes allegedly received stacks of cash, more than a dozen gold bars and a new luxury car

Nadine Menendez was in need of a car because she had destroyed hers in December 2018 when she hit and killed a pedestrian. She was not charged in the death. 

Prosecutors say she texted Hana about her lack of a car on multiple occasions after the crash. He connected her with Uribe, his business associate who had been implicated in an insurance fraud case. In January 2019, the Menendezes and the two businessmen allegedly agreed that the senator would intervene in the insurance fraud case. 

Uribe then bought Nadine Menendez a black Mercedes-Benz convertible, meeting her in a restaurant parking lot to hand over $15,000 in cash that she used for the down payment, and later arranging car payments, according to the indictments. In a February court filing, prosecutors said Hana also purchased an engagement ring for Nadine Menendez as part of the deal. 

“It might be a fantastic 2019 all the way around,” she texted the senator a few weeks later after it appeared likely that Egypt would grant a monopoly to a company owned by Hana in a deal that provided a “revenue stream” for him to pay the Menendezes, prosecutors alleged. 

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Sen. Bob Menendez and Nadine Menendez arrive at the White House for a state dinner in honor of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 22, 2023. 

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With the assistance of the senator, Nadine Menendez set up a shell company in summer 2019, which was used to receive payments from a “low-or-no-show job”, according to prosecutors. At the time, prosecutors say she was tens of thousands of dollars behind on her mortgage and facing foreclosure. Hana’s company, they say, paid $23,000 to bring the mortgage payments up to date while the senator sought to pressure New Jersey officials to end the fraud investigation linked to Uribe. 

Details about her career are murky. The indictments described the divorced mother of two as unemployed when she met the senator, and friends told the New York Times that she did not work outside the home while raising children. She attended New York University, majoring in international politics and French culture and civilization. 

In a podcast interview in 2020, she said she was born in Beirut to Armenian parents and her family fled to Greece and England during the Lebanese civil war. They eventually settled in the United States, living in California before moving to New York. 

Nadine Menendez sat on a bench in front of the Taj Mahal in October 2019 as the senator stood behind her, with his hands on her shoulders, singing, “Never Enough” from the movie “The Greatest Showman.” 

“Towers of gold are still too little, these hands could hold the world, and it’ll never be enough, never be enough for me,” he sang. 

He pulled a ring out his pocket to propose and the two kissed and hugged. 

The senator told the New York Times after their engagement that his fiancee was “beautiful and bright and had such a great personality. There was just this aura about her.”

They were married a year later in a ceremony that was held outdoors due to the pandemic, the senator shared on his Facebook page. 

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Sen. Bob Menendez and Nadine Menendez attend a forum hosted by The European House-Ambrosetti in Cernobbio, Italy on Sept. 1, 2023. 

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According to the indictments, the couple continued to benefit from their relationship with Hana. 

In June 2021, Hana purchased 22 one-ounce gold bars, each with a unique serial number, the indictment said, adding that two of those gold bars were found in the couple’s home during a June 2022 search. Prosecutors said Nadine Menendez sold two one-kilogram gold bars, which she said came from her mother, to a jeweler in New York months before the search. 

After the FBI searched their Englewood house, Nadine Menendez and Uribe met to discuss what they would tell investigators about the car payments, the indictments said. They agreed to characterize the bribe payments as loans, then the senator wrote checks to his wife, who then wrote checks to Hana and Uribe, according to the indictments. 

Prosecutors said the couple “caused their counsel to make statements regarding the bribe money” which they “knew were false, in an effort to interfere with an investigation.” 

Last week, Nadine Menendez asked a federal judge for more time to hire new attorneys, saying her health issues had prevented her from meeting a deadline to inform the court of her new counsel.

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