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Stacks of Cash at Menendez Home Were Not From His Bank, Prosecutors Say

When Sen. Robert Menendez was indicted last year on corruption charges after investigators discovered $486,000 in cash stashed around his New Jersey home, he offered a simple, “old-fashioned” explanation: He had the habit of withdrawing money from a personal savings account to stay home, a habit he learned from his Cuban immigrant parents.

But federal prosecutors, in documents filed late Friday, presented new details that they say contradict Mr. Menendez’s claims. Some of the money was wrapped in tapes indicating it had been withdrawn, at least $10,000 at a time, from a bank where Mr. Menendez and his wife “had no known deposit accounts.” Prosecutors say this indicates “that the money was provided to them by another person.”

Recently, Mr. Menendez’s lawyers asked a judge to exclude as evidence much of the money discovered in the house when the senator’s trial in Manhattan begins next month, arguing that there was no proof that the money was linked to a crime. The filing filed Friday by prosecutors responded to that request.

The issue of budget cuts speaks to a critical theme of the government’s case: the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, led a lifestyle beyond their means and were financed by bribes.

A federal indictment says the cash, along with gold bars and other valuables, were the “fruits” of a bribery scheme. Much of the money found in the couple’s Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, home was discovered in a bedroom closet, prosecutors said in their filing. Additional cash was found in a duffel bag in an office, in a bag on a shelf above a coat rack in the basement, in the pockets of men’s jackets hanging on the coat rack, and in shoes under jackets. Additionally, more than $70,000 was discovered in a safe managed by Ms. Menendez, the government said.

Mr. Menendez, 70, and his wife are accused of accepting bribes in exchange for the senator’s willingness to use his political influence to disrupt criminal investigations in New Jersey and to help Egyptian governments and Qatari. The Menendezes and two New Jersey businessmen charged in the scheme have all pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Menendez, the former chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the two businessmen are expected to be tried together, starting May 6, in Manhattan Federal District Court. The senator has refused widespread calls for his resignation and said he hopes to run again in November as an independent if he is exonerated.

Prosecutors said at least 10 cash envelopes found during searches of the senator’s home and a safe, containing more than $80,000, had the fingerprints or DNA of one of the men businessmen also charged in this case. They said gold bars were also attached to the businessmen.

Mr. Menendez’s lawyers had no comment Saturday. But in court papers, they said they were trying to prevent prosecutors from revealing to the jury only those species that did not have a clear connection to an alleged co-conspirator. “The government should not be permitted to attempt to influence the jury with a dramatic display of valuable items having only a speculative connection to a charged offense,” they wrote.

Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled Thursday that Ms. Menendez, 57, would be tried separately, after her lawyers said she suffered from a newly diagnosed health problem that would require surgery and possibly a lengthy recovery. The judge set a tentative trial date for her in July.

Last September, Mr. Menendez, who was born in the United States, offered an explanation for at least some of the money found in their home, linking it to his family’s roots in Cuba in the years before the takeover by Fidel Castro.

For 30 years, Mr. Menendez said, he had withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from his personal savings account, saving it “for emergencies.” He said the habit stemmed from “my family’s history of facing confiscation in Cuba.”

“It may sound old-fashioned,” he added, “but it was money taken from my personal savings account based on the income I legally received over those 30 years.”

The following month, in an interview with PBS, Mr. Menendez said he had withdrawn $400 in cash every week for “the better part of” three decades.

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