Bribery Case Against Sen. Menendez Shines Light On Powerful NJ Developer Accused Of Corruption | EUROtoday

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NEW YORK (AP) — In late 2020, Sen. Bob Menendez met with Philip Sellinger, a non-public apply lawyer and former fundraiser for the senator, to evaluate his potential match as the subsequent U.S. lawyer for the state of New Jersey — and to debate one case particularly.

If appointed, Sellinger would assume management of one of many largest prosecutor’s places of work within the nation, a publish that comes with the ability to bust mob bosses and go after corrupt public officers.

But Menendez, federal prosecutors say, was fixated on a much less consequential matter: making certain the longer term prosecutor would act sympathetically towards a good friend of his going through financial institution fraud costs, actual property developer Fred Daibes.

Daibes is now a key determine in a sweeping bribery case introduced in opposition to Menendez, his spouse and a number of different associates. It accuses Menendez and his spouse of accepting a whole lot of 1000’s of {dollars} value of money, gold bars and a luxurious automotive in alternate for a spread of favors, together with secretly aiding the federal government of Egypt on U.S. coverage issues and interfering in three legal investigations, together with the one involving Daibes.

The indictment unsealed Friday by the U.S. lawyer in Manhattan stated Daibes paid bribes, together with envelopes full of 1000’s of {dollars} in money and gold bars value greater than $120,000.

Menendez has denied wrongdoing, blaming the prosecution on “forces behind the scenes” who “cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator.” An lawyer for Daibes, Tim Donohue, stated he was assured his shopper can be “completely exonerated of all charges.”

Daibes and Menendez each rose to prominence as energy gamers in the identical stretch of city communities throughout the Hudson River from Manhattan, the place native politics and actual property have lengthy concerned favor-trading.

In his dwelling base of Edgewater, New Jersey, simply up the river from Union City, the place Menendez was as soon as mayor, Daibes is broadly credited with constructing out a “gold coast” of luxurious excessive rises alongside the previously industrial waterfront.

That achievement might have been helped by Daibes’ cozy relationship with various Edgewater officers, who turned away rival builders from the group and accredited his profitable offers, in accordance with lawsuits and a latest report by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation.

That report discovered Daibes rented a reduced condominium to Edgewater’s mayor and supplied a number of million {dollars} in income to an area councilman’s enterprise, whereas accruing improvement rights and reneging on guarantees to construct reasonably priced housing.

It stated individuals who opposed Daibes confronted reprisals. Edgewater’s earlier mayor, James Delaney, testified that his political assist evaporated when he complained about what he believed was a corrupt settlement between native officers and Daibes. He in the end did not run for reelection.

“This report is a cautionary tale concerning the inherent dangers of enabling an influential, politically-connected and unelected private citizen to hold outsized power in government concerns,” the fee wrote.

Delaney’s former spouse, Bridget Delaney, who had spent 15 years working for Daibes at his restaurant, stated the couple have been successfully run out of Edgewater, ruining their lives.

“There’s fraud all over that town,” she informed The Associated Press on Friday. “When he’s in jail, maybe that will provide some relief.”

In 2018, Daibes was charged by federal prosecutors in Newark with acquiring loans underneath false pretenses from a financial institution that he owned. The costs have been severe, carrying the potential for years in jail.

Daibes was nonetheless awaiting trial in 2021 when Menendez, as New Jersey’s senior senator, performed a key position in advising the brand new administration of President Joe Biden on potential candidates to be the highest federal prosecutor within the state.

According to the indictment, Menendez initially rejected Sellinger as a candidate after their December 2020 job interview as a result of the lawyer informed him he would possible must recuse himself from any case involving Daibes because of a earlier matter during which he represented the developer.

But after one other candidate fell via, Menendez in the end beneficial him for the job.

After Sellinger was sworn in, the Department of Justice had him step apart from the Daibes prosecution and hand accountability for it to a different senior prosecutor. Menendez, in accordance with the indictment, then badgered each Sellinger and the prosecutor who had been put accountable for Daibes case, calling them a number of instances.

Menendez additionally requested certainly one of his political advisors to let Sellinger know he was upset with the best way the Daibes case was being dealt with, in accordance with the indictment.

During the months in 2022 when Menendez was attempting to affect the dealing with of the case, Daibes organized for Menendez’s spouse, Nadine, to be given two gold bars, every value round $60,000, together with an envelope containing 1000’s of {dollars} in money, the indictment stated.

At one level, Menendez carried out an online seek for “how much is one kilo of gold worth?”

David Schertler, a lawyer for Nadine Menendez stated she “denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these charges in court.”

Sellinger and his senior prosecutor informed investigators they stored Menendez’s makes an attempt to affect the case from the workforce of legal professionals dealing with the prosecution and took no steps to intervene, the indictment stated.

In an emailed assertion, a spokesperson for the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office famous the recusal by Sellinger, including that each one exercise associated to that matter was dealt with appropriately in accordance with the rules of federal prosecution.

Last yr, following a delayed trial, Daibes pleaded responsible in his financial institution fraud case. Under the settlement, he would obtain solely probation, in accordance with his lawyer. But his sentencing has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled to happen subsequent month.