One of three businessmen federally charged with coordinating hundreds of thousands of dollarsto Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and his wife was arrested Tuesday after flying into New York.
Wael Hana, 40, was taken into custody at JFK Airport, according to the Associated Press. His attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, told CBS News in a statement that Hana "returned voluntarily from Egypt so that he would have the opportunity to prove his innocence which we are confident he will be able to do after a full and fair trial."
Hana, a New Jersey resident originally from Egypt, was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, according to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Prosecutors allege Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted bribes in exchange for using the senator's power and influence to enrich and protect Hana and the two other indicted businessmen, as well as benefit Egypt's government.
Menendez chaired the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he stepped down last week following his indictment, as required under Senate Democratic Caucus rules.
The alleged bribes included cash, gold bars, mortgage payments and compensation, the indictment reads, and federal agents found more than $480,000 in cash during a search of the couple's home in June 2022.
Beginning in 2018, according to prosecutors, Hana and Nadine Menendez "worked to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to" the senator with the goal of establishing a "corrupt agreement."
Among the allegations was that Hana hired Nadine Menendez at his halal meat export certification company, IS EG Halal Certified, for a "low-or-no-show" position, in exchange for the senator facilitating foreign military sales and financing to Egypt, which had been withheld for years, the indictment read.
Menendez also in 2019 intervened to protect a monopoly for Hana's company which led to increased costs for U.S. meat suppliers and others, the charging documents said. The monopoly in turn provided a revenue stream for the bribes, prosecutors said.
Nearly two dozen Senate DemocratsMenendez to step down, but he has so far rejected those calls, that he will "be exonerated."
The other two New Jersey businessmen charged in the case, 56-year-old Jose Uribe of Clifton, New Jersey, and 66-year-old Fred Daibes, face the same charges as Hana.
If convicted as charged, Hana could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the bribery count, and 20 years in prison for the fraud count.
— Melissa Quinn, Caroline Linton and Stefan Becket contributed to this report.
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