The romance of now-indicted lovebirds Senator Bob Menendez and Nadine Arslanian first blossomed over pancakes at a modest IHOP in Union City, New Jersey, after the owner introduced the couple.
“I didn’t know Bob was a senator back then,” Lebanon-born Arslanian, 58, said later New York Times by 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. “She just had that aura.”
His new love had earned a master’s degree in French language and culture from New York University, as well as a certain level of fashion knowledge.
It was the start of a fast and furious relationship: together they traveled the world, visiting four continents in five months, before Menendez proposed in India in October 2019.
The senator, who has a love for music, began singing “Never Enough” from the film “The Greatest Showman” as the couple sat on a park bench in front of the Taj Mahal. Arslanian immediately knew it was a suggestion and began to cry.
The story of now-indicted lovebirds Senator Bob Menendez and Nadine Arslanian had humble beginnings over pancakes at an IHOP in Union City, New Jersey, where the owner had introduced the couple
“I didn’t know Bob was a senator back then,” Lebanon-born Arslanier, 58, told the New York Times of Menendez, 69. “He was very intelligent and had a great sense of humor, and that was him.” very very hot’
The couple was on a 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 health system and the future U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey.
They then moved in select circles and attended two state dinners at the White House.
It was the second marriage for both of them and both have children with their ex-partners. The senator’s son, 38-year-old Rob Menendez, serves in the House of Representatives.
Arslanian had not worked outside the home while raising her children and had financial problems after their divorce in 2005. But when she met Menendez, she had already founded her own international management consulting firm.
Menendez, meanwhile, has been involved in politics his entire adult life, starting with a school board in New Jersey at age 20.
A grand jury has now alleged that the couple adopted a pay-to-play scheme that funded a lavish lifestyle – accepting cash, gold and luxury gifts in return for influence over the senator’s work.
Menendez described Arslanian as “beautiful and smart and had such a great personality.” She just had that aura.
Menendez and Arslanian were charged with bribery
The indictment alleges that the couple had an inappropriate relationship with three New Jersey businessmen: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes, who allegedly paid the couple to have Menendez use his influence in Washington, D.C. to their advantage.
A raid on her home in June 2022 “found over $480,000 in cash – much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe,” the indictment says, adding that Nadine had over $70,000 had dollars in a locker.
There were two one-kilogram gold bars and eleven one-ounce gold bars.
According to the indictment, Menendez and his wife took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes because they used the senator’s influence to protect and enrich businessmen.
“These bribes included cash, gold, payments on a home mortgage, compensation for a job that was not used or used infrequently, a luxury vehicle, and other items of value,” the indictment states.
The senator is also accused of “providing sensitive information to the U.S. government and taking other steps that secretly aided the Egyptian government.”
Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, lays out the evidence against Democratic U.S. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey 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 pushed Menendez for U.S. military assistance status and Hana placed Nadine Menendez on his company’s payroll, prosecutors said.
At the time, Egypt was one of the largest recipients of American military aid, but the State Department had withheld $195 million and cut another $65.7 million until the country could demonstrate progress on human rights and democracy.
Menendez did not provide Hana with 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 United States to Egypt in 2019, despite a lack of experience with halal certification.
Hana is said to have used the proceeds from these exports to finance bribe payments, the indictment says.
After the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised concerns about Hana’s monopoly with Egyptian officials because of concerns about high costs for U.S. meat producers, Menendez asked a USDA official to allow the company to retain its status, prosecutors said.
Menendez has denied all allegations.
A statement said prosecutors had misrepresented routine legislative work.
“The excesses of these prosecutors are obvious,” Menendez said. “The facts are not as they are portrayed.”
A lawyer for Nadine Menendez said she denied wrongdoing and would defend herself “vigorously” against the allegations in court.