Federal prosecutors investigating wife of Democratic Senator over potential pay-to-play corruption

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is once again under investigators’ microscope for possible corruption, as subpoenas in a federal probe are issued for associates of his wife, Nadine Arslanian, to discover if she received gifts or services from people seeking favors from her husband.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is requesting information about both Arslanian and Menendez, who were married in 2020, the Wall Street Journal reports, adding that “investigators’ interest in Ms. Arslanian hasn’t been previously reported.”

“It couldn’t be determined exactly what information prosecutors are seeking about Ms. Arslanian,” WSJ noted.

This probe is unrelated to a 2015 public-corruption case against New Jersey’s senior senator, who serves as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That case ultimately ended in a mistrial.

While attorneys for Menendez and Arslanian declined to comment, a Menendez representative, Michael Soliman, pointed to a previous statement in which he acknowledged that the senator is aware of the investigation.

“As always, should any official inquiries be made, the senator is available to provide any assistance that is requested of him or his office,” Soliman, a political consultant and adviser to the senator, said.

Though this may be the first time interest in Arslanian has garnered headlines, the probe goes back to at least 2019, when, according to court records, search warrants were executed on an alleged Arslanian associate, Wael Hana, whose company, IS EG Halal in Edgewater, N.J., is the only business designated to certify halal meat that is exported to Egypt.

In 2020, Hana’s lawyer, Lawerence Lustberg, filed court documents seeking to return to Hana property the government seized. In those filings, it is noted that prosecutors were investigating potential federal law violations, including possible undisclosed foreign lobbying in the U.S.

According to Lustberg, Hana “has done absolutely nothing wrong” and the contract with Egypt was awarded “without any assistance whatsoever from any U.S. public official.”

New Jersey lawyer Antranig Aslanian — who has for 25 years known Arslanian, a fellow Armenian — was also subpoenaed in recent months, though he says he doesn’t know what prosecutors were looking for.

“If she was somewhere and I saw her, I’d say, ‘Hey, would you like a drink?'” said Aslanian, who has represented Hana. “I said to the U.S. attorney, ‘Is there something wrong with that? If I saw you out, I’d offer you a drink.'”

The senator’s wife is the president of Strategic International Business Consultants LLC, according to state business records. The holding company was incorporated in 2019 in New Jersey.

“Mr. Menendez’s recent federal financial disclosures show that Ms. Arslanian earned income from the company last year,” WSJ reports. “The senator’s disclosure forms also showed she worked for Fusion Diagnostics Laboratories, a New Jersey medical testing company.”

Moataz Abdalla, Fusion’s chief executive, stated Arslanian did a short stint in sales and marketing. In an emailed statement, Abdalla’s lawyer, Robert Skoblar, expressed Fusion’s support for Arslanian.

“I am convinced that Moataz and his company were absolutely upright in their dealings with Mrs. Menendez as a former employee,” he said.

In 2015, federal prosecutors alleged Menendez helped a Florida ophthalmologist with visa applications for his girlfriends, Medicare-billing disputes, and a port contract dispute in the Dominican Republic in exchange for vacations and trips aboard a private jet — perks that amounted to $1 million in “gifts.”

The trial was held in 2017 and was declared a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict. Menendez was acquitted of some charges in 2018, and, given those acquittals and what is admissible as evidence in a retrial, the Justice Department stated it wouldn’t retry the senator on the counts that remained.

Menendez has always maintained his innocence in that case.

Melissa Fine


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