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N.J. Sen. Bob Menendez says his wife Nadine has breast cancer amid trial for bribery case

Nadine Menendez, wife of Sen. Bob Menendez, leaves Manhattan federal court last week. Nadine Menendez has been diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a statement from the senator. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
Yuki Iwamura
Nadine Menendez, wife of Sen. Bob Menendez, leaves Manhattan federal court last week. Nadine Menendez has been diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a statement from the senator. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
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Sen. Bob Menendez’s wife Nadine, who’s a key player in the alleged bribery scheme he’s on trial for in Manhattan, has been diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a statement from the senator.

The statement, which Menendez came as the powerful 70-year-old N.J. Democrat faces a Manhattan Federal Court jury, accused of accepting bribes from N.J. businessmen through his wife in exchange for using his influence to benefit Egypt and Qatar and to interfere with criminal investigations.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife Nadine Menendez depart a Manhattan court following an arraignment on new charges in the federal bribery case against them on March 11, 2024 in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Senator Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez depart a Manhattan court following an arraignment on federal bribery charges on March 11. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“As a result of constant press inquiries and reporters following my wife, she has asked me to disclose her medical condition, Nadine is suffering from Grade 3 breast cancer, which will require her to have mastectomy surgery,” Menendez said,

“We are of course, concerned about the seriousness and advanced stage of the disease. She will require follow up surgery and possibly radiation treatment. We hope and pray for the best results. We ask the press and the public to give her the time, space and privacy to deal with this challenging health condition as she undergoes surgery and recovery.”

Nadine Menendez, 58, who also faces federal charges, had her case severed from her husband’s for health-related reasons. She’s slated to

On Thursday, the FBI agent who led the June 2022 raid on the couple’s Englewood Cliffs, N.J. home walked the jury through photograph after photograph of gold and stacks of cash found in the house, in duffel bags, a closet safe, a basement, an office, and in the pockets of several men’s jackets.

The feds found $100,000 in a large duffel bag, and another $33,200 stuffed in a beige Burberry bag found inside a smaller duffel, FBI agent Aristotelis Kougemitros said.

They found more wads of cash in two pairs of boots, including a stack of hundreds packed into a Giorgio Armani bag shoved into a single red shoe.

The amount of bills they found was “so voluminous” the agents stopped snapping photos of individual bills, Kougemitros said, adding “I believed it was evidence of a crime.”

It was too much to count by hand, so Kougemtros called for “reinforcements” — two agents from the FBI’s Manhattan office, who showed up with two cash-counting machines.

“You’ve probably seen them in movies,” the agent said of the machines.

In all, agents found $486,561 in cash, 11 one-ounce bars of gold, and two one-kilogram bars of gold, he said.

Menendez kept the money around the house because he knew the value of keeping money at hand, after his Cuban refugee parents lost everything except the cash they hid in a grandfather clock, his defense lawyer said.

Menendez’s defense team contends that the gold bars — which were given to him as bribes — were actually gifts to Nadine from a N.J. businessmen she had a close friendship with, and that he didn’t have anything to do with them.

A slide from the defenses PowerPoint presentation showing Bob and Nadine having separate finances, cell phone plans, etc.
A slide Menendez’s defense team’s PowerPoint presentation from its opening argument Wednesday.

Two of those businessmen, Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, are on trial alongside Menendez, while a third, Jose Uribe, took a plea deal and is cooperating with prosecutors.

“This case is really about friendships, deep and long-lasting friendships,” said Daibes’ lawyer, Cesar de Castro. “Can they tell you when that money or gold got there? Can they tell you how that money or gold got there? Can they tell you why that money or gold got there?

Daibes, he said, “collects and gives gold,” a commonplace practice around the world. “Gold is even sold at Costco.”

Hana’s lawyer, Lawrence Lustberg, said his client and Nadine Menendez were longtime friends, “like brother and sister.”

“And yes, they gave each other gifts, that’s just what friends do,” Lustberg said.”What the government is trying to do here … is to criminalize gift-giving.”

Even so, Lustberg said, Hana didn’t buy Nadine Menendez a car when she asked for one, and when she asked him to pay her mortgage, he gave her a loan instead.

Hana gave her a job at his halal certification company, but it wasn’t a no-show gig or a bribe, and he didn’t renew her $10,000-a-month contract after three months, Lustberg said.

“She wasn’t interested in working. She didn’t want to work. She wanted something for nothing,” Lustberg said. “He responded by firing her.”

 

 

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