The New Jersey Senator has been formally charged
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez AFP

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez put his political power "up for sale" as he received bribes from different businessmen in exchange for advancing their interests, said a U.S. prosecutor as he wrapped up the arguments in his corruption trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni urged the jury at the New York City trial to vote for convicting Menendez after more than two months of presenting evidence regarding his actions, including photos showing gold bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash found at his home.

The prosecutor said that it wasn't enough for Menendez to be one of the most powerful people in Washington D.C., considering he was the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he "also wanted to use it to pile up riches for himself and his wife."

Menendez, on his end, once again rejected the charges, saying outside the courthouse that the "government is intoxicated with their own rhetoric." He added that Monteleoni spent "two hours telling jurors about what they believe conversations should be that they never heard."

But the prosecutor outlined a "clear pattern of corruption" and detailing how both Menendez and his wife, Nadine, took cash, gold and a luxury car in exchange for his political influence.

Authorities found gold bars worth more than $100,000 and almost half a million dollars in cash during a 2022 search of Menendez's residence. The bars' serial numbers showed they had been previously owned by Fred Daibes, one of the New Jersey businessmen charged with bribing Menendez. Over ten envelopes of cash with thousands of dollars also had his fingerprints.

The defense gave different arguments to justify the proceedings of the assets. Regarding the gold bars, it said they were inherited by Nadine Menendez, part of a broader strategy aimed at pinning the actions on her and saying she kept him in the dark about gifts accepted while going through financial trouble. However, the claim was disputed by the prosecutors, who showed the bars' serial numbers pointed to Daibes.

As for the cash, the senator's older sister, Caridad González, echoed the defense's arguments by saying that keeping cash was a "Cuban thing" resulting from escaping the island in 1951. She said she also found a stash of cash in her brother's house in the 1980s.

"Daddy always said don't trust the banks," Gonzalez said, according to CBS News. "If you trust the banks, you never know what can happen, so you must always have money at home."

However, the prosecution leaned on the analysis of a forensic accountant to dispute the claim, showing that Menendez withdrew about $400 in cash every few weeks between 2008 and 2022, a figure amounting to about $150,000, much less than the $480,000 found.

Russell Richardson's analysis was meant to support the Cuba argument, but the cross-examination focused on the fact that cash seized at the Menendez house was in bundles of $10,000 and had Daibes' fingerprints in the envelopes. Richardson said he didn't find records of Menendez withdrawing $10,000 at once at any given point.

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