Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted Friday on allegations that he and his wife accepted bribes from a group of New Jersey businessmen on behalf of interests in Egypt, totaling over $600,000.
Prosecutors allege the senator and his wife accepted cash, gold bars and a luxury car in return for assisting the businessmen. The FBI found nearly $500,000 in cash and more than $100,000 in gold at Menendez’s home in a raid last year, allegedly payment for the bribes.
The senator stepped down from his seat as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee late Friday.
These are the specific charges that Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, face:
Conspiracy to Commit Bribery
The bribery charge, brought against Menendez, his wife and the three New Jersey businessmen, alleges that the group conspired to pay Menendez in exchange for political favors.
According to prosecutors, Menendez “directly and indirectly, would and did corruptly demand, seek, receive, accept, and agree to receive and accept something of value personally and for another person and entity, in return for being influenced in the performance of an official act and for being induced to do an act and omit to do an act in violation of his official duty.”
Specifically, prosecutors allege that the group met multiple times, communicated frequently — often via text through Arslanian — and the businessmen made multiple payments to Menendez and his wife.
According to the indictment, Menendez pressured New Jersey prosecutors in an effort to disrupt the prosecutions of multiple federal and state criminal cases.
He also allegedly took bribes from interests in Egypt, and in exchange advocated for issues important to Egypt in Congress. That includes pressuring the State Department to encourage the construction of a dam considered important to Egyptian interests and advocating on behalf of the Egyptian military in encouraging U.S. arms deals.
According to the indictment, Menendez set up a fraudulent business — Strategic International Business Consultants, LLC — to facilitate the bribes, prosecutors allege, as well as used his influence to protect a business monopoly of a second business related to Egyptian interests and the businessmen.
Conspiracy to Commit Honest Services Fraud
This charge involves the same claims as the bribery charge, but is separate as it relates to the abuse of Menendez’s position as a politician, and therefore a public servant.
All five defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.
Conspiracy to Commit Extortion Under Color of Official Right
The extortion charge was only brought against Menendez and his wife, relating to their actions in return for receiving the alleged bribes. Specifically, it relates to the alleged pressure they put on federal and state prosecutors to drop or slow criminal cases that interested them.
New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin denounced Menendez’s alleged attempts to influence his office in a statement Friday.
“The allegations are deeply disturbing to me and my office, and we are already in the process of reviewing the concerns raised by the indictment,” he said. “It is a privilege to hold public office in service to the people one represents. Any individual who uses their public office to enrich themselves rather than selflessly serve the public does so at great cost to the public and to all public servants.”
In addition to criminal charges, prosecutors filed a forfeiture claim seeking to keep the money and other gifts allegedly paid to the senator as a bribe.
In total, it includes the couple’s home, paid for by bribes via a mortgage, according to prosecutors, as well as a luxury Mercedes given to Arslanian.
Prosecutors also seek to keep about $550,000 in cash and over $150,000 in gold seized from FBI raids on Menendez’s properties.