In that disclosure, he reported no gifts, transactions or travel. However, Menendez’s wife, Nadine Arslanian, reported selling gold bars on four separate occasions last year.
In October 2022, Menendez confirmed that he was the subject of a criminal investigation undertaken by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. At the time, advisers to New Jersey’s senior senator acknowledged the new investigation but didn’t provide any further details.
“As always, should any official inquiries be made, the senator is available to provide any assistance,” said Michael Soliman, an adviser to Menendez.
The Southern District’s new inquiry — which may focus on luxury gifts Menendez and Arslanian received from the owner of an Edgewater halal meat company, according to reports — was said last fall to be similar to the 2017 case in which Menendez was acquitted.
In that case, Menendez was accused of taking campaign donations and lavish trips from Salomon Melgen, a south Florida ophthalmologist. Menendez denied that the benefits from Melgen were bribes, and said the gifts came from a longtime personal friend. The senator’s trial ended in a mistrial after that jury voted 10-2 for acquittal. Prosecutors eventually chose not to retry the case.
Menendez filed his 2022 financial disclosure report on June 26, after requesting two extensions from a May 15 deadline.
During April and June of 2022, Menendez reported that Arslanian, an international businesswoman who lives in Bergen County, sold gold bullion.
Partial sales were reported on April 7, 2022, April 8, 2022, June 14, 2022, and June 16, 2022. The sales ranged from $50,001 to $100,000 each.
Subpoenas seek correspondence
The financial disclosure comes as information about the Southern District’s new case slowly surfaces. At least one subpoena was issued at the start of the investigation last fall, reports confirmed, and other subpoenas are expected.
State Sen. Nicholas Sacco, D-Hudson, who also serves as mayor of North Bergen, received one of the subpoenas, his spokesman, Phil Swibinski, told NorthJersey.com and The Record.
The subpoena issued to Sacco requests correspondence related to Menendez, Arslanian and Fred Daibes, the prominent Edgewater developer, according to a source who has knowledge of the subpoena but was not authorized to discuss its contents.
Swibinski said in a statement that Sacco was issued a subpoena “seeking information and records regarding several different matters that he was informed are being sought in connection to an ongoing investigation that is not related to him.”
Sacco was assured that he is “not a target of the investigation” and was “approached only as a potential witness.” The state senator intends to “cooperate fully and provide any requested information as he would with any law enforcement inquiry.”
Before word spread about the subpoenas, Menendez was already preparing. New Jersey’s senior senator spent more than $175,000 between January and March to build a legal defense war chest. According to campaign finance records logged from Jan. 1 to March 31, Menendez paid two law firms a combined $175,343. In addition to the law firms, Menendez paid Haystack ID, a digital consulting service, more than $55,000.
Soliman, the adviser to Menendez, said the payments for legal representation are “not only permissible but a necessary part of the senator’s ability to respond to requests for information.”
Connections to Palisades legislation?
Among the topics touched on in the subpoena, according to a source familiar with the document, is legislation introduced by Sacco and state Sen. Brian Stack, D-Union, who also serves as mayor of Union City, called the “Palisades Cliffs Protection and Planning Act.”
The bill was introduced in January 2022 and moved to the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee last June. It has not been heard by the committee. A previous iteration of the bill was introduced in June 2021, to no avail. Both Stack and committee Chair Sen. Paul Sarlo said they had not received subpoenas.
If the bill gained traction, it would create a Palisades Cliffs Preservation Council and “provide for the preservation of the Palisades cliffs” and give that council governing power with the ability to restrict development in the Palisades to below the sightline.
Ten New Jersey municipalities would each get to appoint a member to the council. Those municipalities are Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City, North Bergen, Weehawken, West New York, Guttenberg, Cliffside Park, Edgewater and Fort Lee.
NorthJersey.com and The Record contacted multiple officials from those municipalities, all of whom said they had not been subpoenaed.
Connection to Daibes
Sacco’s subpoena sought communications from Daibes, the prominent Bergen County developer.
Daibes was at the center of a report issued by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation earlier this month as well. The 83-page report documented connections local officials had to Daibes and how that led to municipal contracts and business opportunities for the local developer.
The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation report outlined how many Edgewater officials had connections to Fred Daibes, a local developer with property along the Hudson River, and said some of the ties included business contracts and, in one case, discounted rent for a luxury apartment.
In 2018, Daibes and a business associate were indicted in federal court on multiple counts for alleged conspiracy to circumvent lending limits set by Mariner’s Bank, which Daibes founded in 2001. He has since pleaded guilty.
Daibes’ sentencing is scheduled for July 27.
Kristie Cattafi covers Bergen County.
Katie Sobko covers the New Jersey Statehouse.