The romance of now-indicted lovebirds Senator Bob Menendez and Nadine Arslanian first blossomed over pancakes at an unassuming IHOP in Union City, New Jersey, after the owner introduced the couple.
“I didn’t know at the time that Bob was a senator,” the Lebanese-born Arslanian (58) later told the newspaper. New York Times of Menendez, 69. “He was very intelligent and had a great sense of humor, and he was very, very hot.”
The Democratic senator described Arslanian as “beautiful and smart and had such a great personality. There was just an aura around her.”
His new love was a graduate of New York University with a master’s degree in French language and civilization, and a deep knowledge of fashion.
It was the start of a fast and furious relationship: They traveled the world together, visiting four continents in five months before Menendez proposed in India in October 2019.
The senator, who has a penchant for music, started singing ‘Never Enough’ from the film ‘The Greatest Showman’ as the pair sat on a park bench outside the Taj Mahal. Arslanian immediately knew it was a proposal and started crying.
The story of now-indicted lovebirds Senator Bob Menendez and Nadine Arslanian began modestly with pancakes at an IHOP in Union City, New Jersey, where the owner had introduced the couple
“I didn’t know Bob was a senator at the time,” the Lebanese-born Arslanian, 58, told the New York Times of Menendez, 69. “He was very intelligent and had a great sense of humor, and he was very, very hot ‘
The couple was riding high at the time after the senator avoided a federal bribery conviction in 2019 due to a hung jury.
A year later, on October 3, 2020., they married in a ceremony in Queens, New York – surrounded by influential friends, including the head of New Jersey’s largest healthcare system and the incoming US attorney for the District of New Jersey. .
They then moved in rarefied circles and attended two state dinners at the White House.
It was a second marriage for both, and each has children with their exes. The senator’s son, 38-year-old Rob Menendez, is a member of the House of Representatives.
Arslanian had not worked outside the home while raising her children and struggled financially after her divorce in 2005. But by the time she met Menendez, she had started her own international business consulting firm.
Menendez, meanwhile, has been in politics his entire adult life, starting on a New Jersey school board at age 20.
A grand jury has now alleged that the couple adopted a pay-to-play scheme that financed a lavish lifestyle: accepting cash, gold and luxury gifts in exchange for influence over the senator’s work.
Menendez described Arslanian as “beautiful and smart and had such a great personality. There was just an aura about her’
Menendez and Arslanian have been charged with bribery
The indictment alleges that the couple had an improper relationship with three New Jersey businessmen: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, who allegedly paid the couple in exchange for Menendez to use his influence in Washington, D.C., to their advantage.
A raid on their home in June 2022 found “more than $480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe,” the indictment said, adding that Nadine had more than $70,000 in had a safe.
There were two one-kilogram gold bars and eleven one-ounce gold bars.
According to the indictment, Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for using the senator’s influence to protect and enrich the businessmen.
“These bribes included cash, gold, mortgage payments, compensation for a low- or no-show job, a luxury car and other items of value,” the indictment said.
It also accuses the senator of providing “sensitive U.S. government information and taking other steps that secretly aided the government of Egypt.”
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, lays out the evidence against New Jersey Democrat U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and his wife Nadine
Prosecutors said Hana, who is originally from Egypt, arranged dinners and meetings between Menendez and Egyptian officials in 2018.
The officials pressured Menendez about the status of U.S. military aid, and Hana put Nadine Menendez on his company’s payroll, prosecutors said.
At the time, Egypt was one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid, but the State Department had withheld $195 million and canceled another $65.7 million until the country could demonstrate improvements in human rights and democracy.
Menendez told Hana non-public information about the status of the aid, prosecutors said.
Hana then texted an Egyptian official: “The ban on small arms and ammunition into Egypt has been lifted.”
Prosecutors said the Egyptian government granted one of Hana’s companies an exclusive license to export halal food from the US to Egypt in 2019, despite a lack of experience with halal certification.
According to the indictment, Hana allegedly used the proceeds from these exports to finance the bribes.
After the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised concerns with Egyptian officials about Hana’s monopoly over concerns about high costs for U.S. meat producers, Menendez asked a USDA official to let the company keep its status, prosecutors said.
Menendez has denied all allegations.
In a statement, prosecutors said they mischaracterized routine legislative work.
“The excesses of these prosecutors are clear,” Menendez said. “The facts are not as presented.”
A lawyer for Nadine Menendez said she denied wrongdoing and would “vigorously defend” herself against the allegations in court.