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A criminal corruption probe into a long-serving Senate Democrat is widening, with new subpoenas having been issued by a federal grand jury last week.
According to NBC News, the corruption investigation involving Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has now encompassed at least one other powerful New Jersey politician, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco.
A spokesperson for North Bergen told 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.”
Menendez has been the subject of a criminal investigation for several months regarding allegations of improperly accepting cash and gifts from the owners of IS EG Halal, a halal meat business based in Edgewater. Both Menendez and the company’s owners have consistently 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 said back in October, according to the outlet.
According to the sources, the recently issued subpoenas, including the one directed at Sacco, are not connected to any allegations involving the meat company.
Rather, the subpoenas are seeking information, in part, regarding specific legislative changes in New Jersey, but they are still part of the overall investigation targeting Menendez.
The subpoena for Sacco, a Democrat, was issued on Wednesday, a day after he was reelected mayor, NBC News said.
“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 an FBI spokesperson and a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York, who is overseeing the federal investigation, declined to comment.
NBC News added:
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 declared in a statement last week.
In 2015, Menendez faced federal corruption charges related to allegations of unlawfully accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor. The charges included accusations of receiving private jet flights, a luxurious hotel stay in Paris, and over $700,000 in political contributions for himself and the Democratic Party.
That case ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict, NBC News reported.
For his part, Menendez has served in the U.S. Senate since 2006, and he is up for reelection again next year.