The scope of a criminal corruption investigation into a long-serving Senate Democrat has expanded after a federal grand jury issued new subpoenas last week.
The corruption investigation concerning Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has reportedly expanded to include at least one other significant New Jersey politician, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco, according to NBC News.
“As they always have, Mayor Sacco and the Township of North Bergen will comply with any inquiry they receive from law enforcement and will cooperate fully.”, a representative for North Bergen told NBC News.
Since several months ago, Menendez has been the focus of a criminal investigation over claims that he inappropriately accepted money and gifts from the Edgewater-based proprietors of the halal meat company IS EG Halal. Menendez and the proprietors of the business have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“I know of an investigation. Don’t know the scope or the subjects and, of course, stand ready to help authorities when and if they ask any questions,” Menendez reportedly stated this in October, per the source.
The recently issued subpoenas, including the one for Sacco, are not related to any accusations regarding the meat industry, said the sources.
The subpoenas, however, are still a part of the wider investigation into Menendez and are requesting information, in part, about specific legislative developments in New Jersey.
A day after being reelected mayor, Sacco, a Democrat, received a subpoena on Wednesday, according to NBC News.
“On Wednesday morning Mayor Sacco was issued a subpoena seeking information and records regarding several different matters that he was informed are being sought in connection to an ongoing investigation that is not related to him,” said a mayoral spokesman in a statement issued Friday.
“Mayor Sacco has been assured that he is not a target of the investigation and was approached only as a potential witness, and he intends to cooperate fully and provide any requested information as he would with any law enforcement inquiry,” the spokesman noted further.
Both the FBI and the Southern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, who is in charge of the federal inquiry, declined to comment.
NBC News also said:
As for Menendez and IS EG Halal, questions persist about how the company won an exclusive worldwide contract with Egypt to certify halal exports — as numerous other firms’ contracts were suddenly canceled in 2019.
Numerous other sources familiar with the matter said some officials at the U.S. Agriculture Department were among those who raised concerns about how the contract was awarded to a New Jersey firm with little experience.
In addition, numerous sources said Menendez’s wife is friends with IS EG’s owners. Menendez chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Egypt. Lawyers for IS EG have denied any wrongdoing, and the owners have said they won the contract with Egypt on the merits. Other firms in the industry, however, have been raising questions.
“This was an unfortunate decision as all of us certifiers lost our authorizations to provide Halal certification for Egypt. This had a severe impact on the industry,” the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce announced in a statement last week.
In 2015, Menendez was accused of illegally collecting favors from a Florida eye specialist and was charged with federal corruption. The accusations included claims that he received private jet travel, a lavish hotel stay in Paris, and more than $700,000 in political donations for the Democratic Party and himself.
According to NBC News, the mistrial in that case resulted from the jury’s inability to agree on a verdict.
Menendez, on the other hand, has been a member of the U.S. Senate since 2006. He is running for reelection in 2016.