Federal investigators are probing whether Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez or his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gold bars from a felon in a trade for help, according to a report.
NBC News 4 reported Monday that the FBI and IRS criminal investigators are attempting to determine if Menendez or his wife had taken up to $400,000 worth of gold bars from Fred Daibes, a New Jersey developer and former bank chairman, or his associates in a swap for Menendez reaching out to the Justice Department to aid the “admitted felon” accused of banking crimes.
Daibes starred down federal bank fraud charges at the time of the alleged handoff that could have netted him up to a decade in prison, the report says.
Witnesses are currently testifying before a Manhattan federal grand jury weighing whether to bring corruption charges against Menendez, the publication reported.
“For purposes of the Federal Extortion Act, it makes no difference if the senator took an official act so long as he accepted the money and there was knowledge the money was in exchange for that official influence, even if he never carried out what he had promised he would do,” NBC Legal Analyst Danny Cevallos said of the ordeal.
Menendez disclosed that his family had accepted gold bars in 2020. Daibes encountered bank fraud charges that could have netted him up to a decade in prison for lying about a nearly $2 million loan from Mariner’s Bank, where Daibes served as chairman.
Last year, however, New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to let Daibes plead guilty to one count and serve probation. They said Daibes had repaid the loan.
NBC News 4’s sources have said there is no sign Menendez had contacted U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger or his office, but the publication noted that the two were close. Menendez had supported Sellinger for his position. Sellinger also previously acted as a fundraiser for Menendez’s campaign.
“U.S. Attorney Sellinger was recused from the Daibes matter and all activity by the office related to that matter was handled appropriately, according to the principles of federal prosecution,” a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson told the publication.
Additionally, officials are examining whether Menendez or his wife had improperly received gifts from a New Jersey food producer who obtained an exclusive contract with the Egyptian government to certify halal food exports across the globe.
Egyptian officials and the New Jersey businessman who received the contract were hosted by Menendez in his office in 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal. A year later, the businessman became the “sole certifier of halal meat exported from the U.S. to Egypt,” the outlet noted.
NBC News 4 said the gifts included the usage of a Mercedez and a luxury Washington, D.C., apartment. Investigators are attempting to resolve if Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, used his standing to help the man secure the contract.
In April, Menendez established a legal defense fund to help pay for tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees relating to the federal criminal probe.
If charged, Menendez could continue serving in the upper chamber. He is up for re-election in 2024.
Menendez was previously indicted on federal bribery charges in 2016. That case related to a wealthy Florida eye doctor and longtime friend who gave generous donations to Menedez and allegedly received benefits in return.
However, the Department of Justice dropped those charges in 2018, and the new probe is unrelated to that case.
Menendez’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation unit also did not immediately respond.