Senator Menendez’s Bribery Scandal: FBI Discovered $600K, Hidden Gold Bars, and Cash in Shoes

lev radin /
lev radin /

Sen. Bob Menendez’s New Jersey home might as well be the latest season of “Storage Wars,” given the sheer volume of riches crammed inside. Or maybe even a jaw-dropping episode of “Hoarders,” considering the sheer extravagance strewn about. Think less suburban home, more Aladdin’s Cave, as revealed by the federal bribery trial photos showcasing his unique approach to storing valuables.

An eye-popping $600,000 in cash and a glittering assortment of gold bars were lying around in various places. One of the more memorable highlights was a wad of cash stuffed into a Timberland boot.

The senator and his wife, Nadine, and three co-defendants face multiple federal felony charges. Menendez and his wife are also charged with acting as foreign agents of Egypt.

At the trial in Manhattan federal court, jurors were treated to a slideshow of Menendez’s cluttered Englewood Cliffs residence from a June 2022 FBI raid. The photos revealed gold bars of various sizes, some aged and nicked, others still shiny in plastic packaging. The feds also found thick stacks of cash hidden in bags and crammed inside a worn-out Timberland boot. Jurors also looked at Menendez’s jam-packed closets, a cramped bedroom featuring an exercise bike, and other messy rooms in the not-so-modest house.

Special Agent Aristotelis Kougemitros testified about leading the raid on the home shared by Menendez and his wife, Nadine, who is also charged but won’t face trial until later due to her breast cancer diagnosis. Agents uncovered 13 gold bars worth $150,000 and over $480,000 in cash squirreled away in closets, jackets, and designer bags. Kougemitros mentioned that there was so much cash that agents struggled to count the $486,461 manually and had to call for two cash-counting machines from the FBI’s Manhattan office.

Menendez and his wife face a laundry list of corruption and bribery charges for allegedly accepting gold, cash, a Mercedes convertible, and other luxury gifts. Prosecutors argue that Menendez, 70, leveraged his role as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to do favors for Egypt, Qatar, and three New Jersey businessmen—Wael Hana, Fred Daibes, and Jose Uribe.

Hana and Daibes are on trial with Menendez, while Uribe has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the authorities. Nadine’s trial is delayed until at least July due to her cancer treatment, which includes a mastectomy.

In an attempt to deflect blame, Menendez’s lawyers pointed fingers at Nadine, claiming she inherited the gold bars from her Lebanese family and that Menendez was clueless about their presence in the house. Defense attorney Avi Weitzman argued that Nadine’s family had a tradition of collecting gold, often given as gifts at christenings and baby namings. He also contended that Menendez kept cash at home due to generational trauma from his Cuban refugee family, who lost everything and kept their money close at hand.

Federal prosecutors say Nadine sold two gold bars to a jeweler and falsely claimed to the shop owner that her mother had given her the bars as a gift.

John Moldovan, general counsel for Hana’s halal company, testified about the Menendezes’ alleged corrupt relationship with Hana, revealing that Hana helped Nadine dodge foreclosure by giving her money for a mortgage payment disguised as a loan. In exchange, Menendez supposedly helped Hana secure a monopoly, ensuring all meat from Egypt to the U.S. had to be certified by Hana’s business.

Former State Department official Josh Paul also testified, providing expert insights on congressional funding in Egypt.

All defendants have pleaded not guilty. The trial will pause after Tuesday for a Memorial Day break. Menendez, who previously dodged a corruption conviction after a mistrial in 2017, stepped down from the Foreign Relations Committee amid these new charges.