Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) claims that he hoarded hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash because his parents were Cuban. He was indicted on federal corruption charges last week.
Menendez maintains his innocence.
“Prosecutors get it wrong sometimes,” Menendez said at a press conference in Union City, New Jersey on Monday.
That indictment alleges that Menendez accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three New Jersey businessmen—Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes—in exchange for using his position as the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee to influence policy in Egypt and the United States to enrich and protect Hana, Uribe, and Daibes. His wife, Nadine Menendez, has also been charged in the case.
The bribes included cash, gold, home mortgage payments, a luxury vehicle, and a “low-or-no-show job,” the indictment claims. Prosecutors say that a raid on Menendez’s New Jersey home in June 2022 found over $480,000 in cash stuffed into envelopes hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe, as well as $70,000 in his wife’s safe deposit box. They further allege that some of that money had fingerprints from Daibes or his driver.
Menendez denied the charges and tried to explain away some of the details from the indictment—like the money reportedly found in the raid.
“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” Menendez said.
“Now this may seem old fashioned, but these were moneys drawn from my personal savings account based on the income I have lawfully derived over those 30 years. I look forward to addressing other issues at trial.”
Menendez was quickly mocked online.
“I usually just pile up cans of tuna fish and water bottles in my garage for disasters,” @HuasoBB said on X. “[B]ut I guess I should start stacking gold bars too.”
“Most of us put our hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash and gold bars in a chest buried in the backyard,” commented @KgMirth. “We don’t stuff it in pockets in the closet. Too easy for home invaders and the police to find.”
Menendez, who is of Cuban descent and has frequently argued for a hardline policy towards Cuba, was also mocked for implying that he withdrew the cash because he feared communists would confiscate it. Critics pointed out that his parents left Cuba before the revolution that brought Fidel Castro into power.
“Bob Menendez’s family (like Marco Rubio’s) emigrated under Fulgencio Batista, not Fidel Castro,” wrote the Cuba historian Andrés Pertierra. “Not seeing anything about the family’s wealth being confiscated, and not sure there was much to confiscate to begin with; they were a carpenter and seamstress respectively.”
“Bob Menendez was born in New York City in 1954, five years *BEFORE* the revolution,” wrote @DavidAstinWalsh. “His dad was a carpenter and his mom a seamstress, so I doubt they were sitting on many assets in Cuba when Castro came to power. Basically he’s so corrupt he’s stolen-valoring Batista loyalists.”
Matt Fuller of the Daily Beast pointed out that, while Menendez claims to have been withdrawing cash from the bank the past 30 years, a photo in the indictment showing some of the money appears to show a pile of $100 bills which have only been in circulation since 2013.
“Put into envelopes with his name on them so he knows they’re his,” @howellsacto replied sarcastically.
“Sometimes there are perfectly innocent reasons that you find yourself in possession of a mobster’s stockpile of gold bricks,” joked @Aaron_Good_.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Penn.) called for Menendez to resign, and said he’d return campaign donations from Menendez.
The senator’s spokesman told the Messenger, “We are in the process of returning the money in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.”