New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor is facing a call to be investigated over whether he gave indicted Sen. Bob Menendez inside information about the man accused of bribing the Democrat with gold bars.The call comes in a complaint filed Tuesday with the Department of Justice Inspector General — who polices federal prosecutors’ conduct — by Thomas Anderson, founder of watchdog group theblackdc.com.Anderson has asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to determine if New Jersey’s US Attorney Phillip Sellinger gave the senator the name of a more junior prosecutor handling a case against property developer Fred Daibes. Daibes is accused by federal prosecutors of plying Menendez, 69, and second wife Nadine Arslanian, 56, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, furniture in return for the Democratic senator trying to “disrupt” a federal fraud case against him — and doing Daibes other favors.The call for a probe into Sellinger comes after Menendez appeared in court in Manhattan Monday and pleaded not guilty to new allegations of corruption, including acting as an agent of the Egyptian government.Sellinger, the most powerful federal prosecutor in New Jersey, was appointed in December 2021 by President Biden after a career in private practice. He was also a major donor to Menendez, contributing $40,000 to his legal defense fund between 2014 and 2017, according to public documents. Menendez faced federal bribery charges in his first indictment in 2015. That case ended in a mistrial in 2017.Sellinger’s office was prosecuting Daibes on 14 counts of bank fraud when he was appointed. Sellinger had been advised by the Department of Justice to recuse himself from the case over a conflict of interest that resulted from his previous law practice, according to the indictment against Menendez. Shortly after Sellinger was confirmed by the Senate and took up the post, Menendez demanded to know who was prosecuting the Daibes case, prosecutors say.“On or about January 21, 2022, Menendez called Official-3 and asked the identity of Official-3’s First Assistant US Attorney (‘Official-4’),” says the federal indictment. “As a result of Official-3’s recusal, Official-4 had supervisory responsibility over the prosecution of Daibes.”Prosecutors claim that three days later, on January 24, Arslanian received gold bars and thousands in cash in an envelope that contained Daibes’ DNA and texted Daibes: “Thank you. Christmas in January.”That afternoon, Menendez called “Official-4” in a call that lasted approximately 15 seconds, according to prosecutors. On January 29, Menendez Googled “kilo of gold price,” then on January 31, Menendez put in another call to “Official-4” lasting “approximately one minute and 24 seconds,” the indictment reads. “Within minutes of the end of his call with Official-4, Menendez called Daibes,” according to the indictment.As late as March 2022, Menendez asked an unidentified “advisor” to press the case with Sellinger, prosecutors say. “Menendez told the Advisor, in sum and substance, that he was frustrated with the way the US Attorney’s Office was handling the prosecution of Daibes and further told the Advisor to tell Official-3 [Sellinger] to give Daibes ‘all due process,’ not withstanding that, Menendez knew, Official-3 was recused from the matter,” the indictment says.Daibes pleaded guilty to a single count in a plea deal the next month, April 2022, but this October, the judge overseeing the case threw out the deal. Daibes has not entered a new plea.Now Sellinger is facing a call to be investigated in a complaint from Anderson to the Department of Justice.“It’s apparent the New Jersey Department of Justice and its officials have come under an intense pressure campaign from one of the most powerful members of Congress,” said Anderson, a government watchdog, in the complaint. “Because of these circumstances and events surrounding such a high profile case it behooves the Office of the Inspector General to open a broad, all-encompassing investigation into every facet of the high stakes corruption and foreign agent charges connected to Senator Menendez.”Menendez, Arslanian, Daibes, and New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana have been charged with bribery and acting as foreign agents to benefit Egypt. All four have pleaded not guilty to all charges and the senator has rejected calls from his own party to step down, saying he will fight the case and run for re-election. A spokesman for the DOJ declined comment. It has not yet responded to the complaint. A lawyer for Menendez did not return a request for comment.
26 Ekim 2023 - 14:05
NJ’s top federal prosecutor faces demand for probe over ‘Bob Menendez influence campaign’
A good-government group wants the Department of Justice to find out if Phillip Sellinger helped Menendez allegedly try to protect co-accused Fred Daibes.
26 Ekim 2023 - 14:05