Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has been charged in a sweeping federal corruption indictment, the authorities said on Friday.
The three-count indictment, which also charges the senator’s wife and three New Jersey businessmen, accuses him of using his official position in a wide range of corrupt schemes at home and abroad. In one, he sought to benefit the government of Egypt, including secretly providing it with sensitive U.S. government information, while in two others, he aimed to influence criminal investigations of two New Jersey businessmen, one of whom was a longtime fund-raiser for Mr. Menendez.
Toward that end, the senator, a Democrat, recommended that President Biden nominate a lawyer, Philip R. Sellinger, for the post of U.S. attorney for New Jersey because Mr. Menendez believed he could influence Mr. Sellinger’s prosecution of the fund-raiser. Mr. Sellinger, who was ultimately confirmed for the post, was not accused of any wrongdoing.
In another scheme, Mr. Menendez used his position to try to disrupt the investigation and prosecution of a businessman by the New Jersey State attorney general’s office, according to the indictment.
In exchange for all those actions, the indictment said, the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bribes, including cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, a luxury vehicle and other valuable things.
Ms. Menendez’s lawyer, David Schertler, said that his client denied criminal wrongdoing.
“Mrs. Menendez denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these charges in court,” Mr. Schertler said.
Representatives for the senator and the two businessmen could not immediately be reached for comment on the charges.
A spokesperson for Mr. Hana said in a statement: “We are still reviewing the charges but based upon our initial review, they have absolutely no merit.”
The charges against Mr. Menendez, 69, follow a lengthy investigation by the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors in Manhattan and comes nearly six years after his trial on unrelated claims of corruption ended with a hung jury.
The businessmen named in the indictment, which was unsealed in Manhattan federal court, are Fred Daibes, a prominent New Jersey real estate developer and fund-raiser for Mr. Menendez; Wael Hana, a longtime friend of Ms. Menendez’s who founded a halal meat certification business and Jose Uribe, who works in the trucking and insurance business.
It has been known for some time that Mr. Menendez was under federal scrutiny, and he has said he was willing to assist investigators and was confident the matter would be “successfully closed.”
The 39-page indictment charges the senator, his wife and the businessmen with conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. It also charges Mr. Menendez and his wife with conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of official right, meaning using his official position to force someone to give them something of value.
The indictment will quickly resound in Washington and in New Jersey.
Mr. Menendez is already facing at least one Democratic challenger in his planned run for re-election to a fourth term in the Senate, and the Republican mayor of Mendham Borough, N.J., has also announced that she will compete for the seat.
If Mr. Menendez were to step down before the end of his term, New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, would be responsible for appointing a successor.
Mr. Daibes, who pleaded guilty last year to a financial crime and is awaiting sentencing, is among a small group of builders responsible for converting parts of the polluted Hudson River waterfront into a bustling hive of residential and commercial activity.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James Smith, the assistant director in charge of the F.B.I.’s New York office, are to announce the charges at a news conference Friday morning.
Mr. Menendez, his wife and their three co-defendants are expected to appear in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, according to Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the Southern District.
The charges are not the senator’s first encounter with the law. In 2015, Mr. Menendez was indicted in New Jersey on bribery charges in what federal prosecutors called a scheme between the senator and a wealthy eye doctor to trade political favors for gifts worth close to $1 million, including luxury vacations in the Caribbean and campaign contributions. Mr. Menendez’s corruption trial ended in a mistrial in November 2017, after the jury said it was unable to reach a verdict.
As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Menendez is one of Washington’s most influential Democrats.
He climbed there rung by rung, quickly, a consummate survivor.
The son of Cuban immigrants, he rose to power in Hudson County, a famously rough political proving ground in northern New Jersey, where he began serving on the school board in Union City as a 20-year-old college student. By 32, he was mayor. Mr. Menendez won the post after wearing a bulletproof vest to testify against Mafia members and a mentor, William V. Musto, the city’s mayor who was convicted of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from a contractor hired to build schools.
Mr. Menendez served in the State Assembly and Senate before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; he was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2005 to fill the vacancy created when Jon Corzine left the body to become governor.
Soon after being sworn in to the Senate, Mr. Menendez faced a federal inquiry led by Chris Christie, then the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, over payments by a nonprofit group that rented a house he owned. It went nowhere, but shadowed him for nearly six years.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Kirsten Noyes contributed research.