In late 2020, Senator Bob Menendez held a meeting with Philip Sellinger, a private practice attorney and former fundraiser for the senator. The purpose of the meeting was to evaluate Sellinger’s suitability for the position of U.S. Attorney for New Jersey and to discuss a specific case.
If appointed, Sellinger would take charge of one of the nation’s largest prosecutor’s offices, with the authority to pursue organized crime figures and investigate corrupt public officials. However, federal prosecutors allege that Menendez was primarily concerned with ensuring that the future prosecutor would show favoritism to a friend of his, real estate developer Fred Daibes, who was facing bank fraud charges.
Fred Daibes now finds himself at the center of a far-reaching bribery case that implicates Senator Menendez, his wife, and several associates. The indictment accuses Menendez and his wife of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and a luxury car in exchange for various favors. These favors allegedly included undisclosed assistance to the government of Egypt on U.S. policy matters and interference in three criminal investigations, including the one involving Daibes.
According to the unsealed indictment by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Daibes is alleged to have paid bribes, including envelopes filled with cash amounting to thousands of dollars and gold bars valued at over $120,000. Menendez has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, attributing the charges to hidden influences and asserting that “forces behind the scenes” are unwilling to accept the ascent of a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings to the U.S. Senate. Daibes’ attorney, Tim Donohue, expressed confidence that his client would be fully exonerated of all charges.
Both Daibes and Menendez rose to prominence in the same urban communities along the Hudson River from Manhattan, where local politics and real estate dealings have often involved reciprocal arrangements. In Edgewater, New Jersey, Daibes’ home base just north of Union City, where Menendez previously served as mayor, Daibes is recognized for transforming the once-industrial waterfront into a “gold coast” of luxury high-rises.
Reports suggest that Daibes’ success may have been facilitated by his close relationships with several Edgewater officials. Allegations include the preferential treatment of Daibes over rival developers, approval of his lucrative deals, and instances where he provided a discounted apartment to Edgewater’s mayor while generating millions in revenue for a local councilman’s business. All this occurred while Daibes allegedly reneged on commitments to develop affordable housing.