Who’s Fred Daibes? Developer key to Sen. Bob Menendez bribery case

In late 2020, Sen. Bob Menendez met with Philip Sellinger, a non-public apply lawyer and former fundraiser for the senator, to evaluate his potential match as the subsequent U.S. legal professional for the state of New Jersey — and to debate one case particularly.

If appointed, Sellinger would assume management of one of many largest prosecutor’s places of work within the nation, a submit that comes with the facility to bust mob bosses and go after corrupt public officers.

However Menendez, federal prosecutors say, was fixated on a much less consequential matter: guaranteeing the long run prosecutor would act sympathetically towards a good friend of his dealing with financial institution fraud costs, actual property developer Fred Daibes.

Daibes is now a key determine in a sweeping bribery case introduced in opposition to Menendez, his spouse and a number of different associates. It accuses Menendez and his spouse of accepting lots of of hundreds of {dollars} value of money, gold bars and a luxurious automobile in trade for a spread of favors, together with secretly aiding the federal government of Egypt on U.S. coverage issues and interfering in three prison investigations, together with the one involving Daibes.

The indictment unsealed Friday by the U.S. legal professional in Manhattan mentioned Daibes paid bribes, together with envelopes filled with hundreds of {dollars} in money and gold bars value greater than $120,000.

Menendez has denied wrongdoing, blaming the prosecution on “forces behind the scenes” who “can not settle for {that a} first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings may rise to be a U.S. Senator.” An legal professional for Daibes, Tim Donohue, mentioned he was assured his shopper could be “utterly exonerated of all costs.”

Daibes and Menendez each rose to prominence as energy gamers in the identical stretch of city communities throughout the Hudson River from Manhattan, the place native politics and actual property have lengthy concerned favor-trading.

In his house base of Edgewater, New Jersey, simply up the river from Union Metropolis, the place Menendez was as soon as mayor, Daibes is widely credited with constructing out a “gold coast” of luxurious excessive rises alongside the previously industrial waterfront.

That achievement might have been helped by Daibes’ cozy relationship with plenty of Edgewater officers, who turned away rival builders from the neighborhood and permitted his profitable offers, in response to lawsuits and a current report by the New Jersey State Fee of Investigation.

That report discovered Daibes rented a reduced house to Edgewater’s mayor and offered a number of million {dollars} in income to an area councilman’s enterprise, whereas accruing growth rights and reneging on guarantees to construct reasonably priced housing.

It mentioned individuals who opposed Daibes confronted reprisals. Edgewater’s earlier mayor, James Delaney, testified that his political assist evaporated when he complained about what he believed was a corrupt settlement between native officers and Daibes. He finally didn’t run for reelection.

“This report is a cautionary story regarding the inherent risks of enabling an influential, politically-connected and unelected personal citizen to carry outsized energy in authorities considerations,” the fee wrote.

Delaney’s former spouse, Bridget Delaney, who had spent 15 years working for Daibes at his restaurant, mentioned the couple have been successfully run out of Edgewater, ruining their lives.

“There’s fraud throughout that city,” she instructed The Related Press on Friday. “When he’s in jail, possibly that may present some reduction.”

In 2018, Daibes was charged by federal prosecutors in Newark with acquiring loans beneath false pretenses from a financial institution that he owned. The costs have been critical, carrying the potential for years in jail.

Daibes was nonetheless awaiting trial in 2021 when Menendez, as New Jersey’s senior senator, performed a key function in advising the brand new administration of President Joe Biden on potential candidates to be the highest federal prosecutor within the state.

Based on the indictment, Menendez initially rejected Sellinger as a candidate after their December 2020 job interview as a result of the lawyer instructed him he would probably need to recuse himself from any case involving Daibes resulting from a earlier matter by which he represented the developer.

However after one other candidate fell by way of, Menendez finally really useful him for the job.

After Sellinger was sworn in, the Division of Justice had him step apart from the Daibes prosecution and hand accountability for it to a different senior prosecutor. Menendez, in response to the indictment, then badgered each Sellinger and the prosecutor who had been put accountable for Daibes case, calling them a number of instances.

Menendez additionally requested one among his political advisors to let Sellinger know he was upset with the way in which the Daibes case was being dealt with, in response to the indictment.

In the course of the months in 2022 when Menendez was attempting to affect the dealing with of the case, Daibes organized for Menendez’s spouse, Nadine, to be given two gold bars, every value round $60,000, together with an envelope containing hundreds of {dollars} in money, the indictment mentioned.

At one level, Menendez carried out an internet seek for “how a lot is one kilo of gold value?”

David Schertler, a lawyer for Nadine Menendez mentioned she “denies any prison conduct and can vigorously contest these costs in court docket.”

Sellinger and his senior prosecutor instructed investigators they stored Menendez’s makes an attempt to affect the case from the crew of legal professionals dealing with the prosecution and took no steps to intervene, the indictment mentioned.

In an emailed assertion, a spokesperson for the New Jersey U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace famous the recusal by Sellinger, including that every one exercise associated to that matter was dealt with appropriately in response to the ideas of federal prosecution.

Final 12 months, following a delayed trial, Daibes pleaded responsible in his financial institution fraud case. Below the settlement, he would obtain solely probation, in response to his legal professional. However his sentencing has been repeatedly delayed and is now scheduled to happen subsequent month.

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