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Politics

Greek-American Agent Testifies on FBI Raid on Bob Menendez’s Home

NEW YORK – Opening statements were completed and the presentation of evidence began at the trial of U.S. Senator Bob Menendez in Manhattan federal court on May 16. The trial’s first witness was an FBI agent, Greek-American Aristotelis Kougemitros.

Just as the first evidence — pictures of 13 gold bars and over $480,000 in cash seized from the couple’s home — was shown to jurors at his New York bribery trial… Sen. Menendez said on May 16 that his wife will undergo a mastectomy after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

The New Jersey Democrat said he was revealing his wife’s health crisis at her request after repeated inquiries from the media. “We are, of course, concerned about the seriousness and advanced stage of the disease,” the senator said in a statement. He added: “She will require follow up surgery and possibly radiation treatment. We hope and pray for the best results.”

Previously, lawyers for Nadine Menendez had requested her trial on charges in the case be delayed after she was diagnosed with what was only previously described publicly as a serious health issue. 

Judge Sidney H. Stein had postponed her trial until at least July. Nadine Menendez, who married the senator two years after she began dating him in 2018, has pleaded not guilty.

Kougemitros, who described leading a June 2022 raid on the couple’s Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, home.

He testified that two 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) gold bars, 11 1-ounce gold bars and $486,461 in cash were among valuables found in the home, along with cellphones and jewelry. In all, 52 items were seized. 

At first, Kougemitros said, the FBI had directed agents to photograph any cash that was found, but not necessarily to seize it. But he said that based on his experience and training, along with the “totality of the circumstances,” that he decided the amount of cash was so voluminous that it would be seized.

“I believed there was evidence potentially of a crime,” he said, drawing an objection from Menendez’s lawyer that was sustained by the judge.

Through dozens of photographs and the agent’s testimony, jurors were taken on a tour of the home as Kougemitros described where cash and the gold bars were discovered by a team of eight agents that was later supplemented by two Manhattan agents who brought cash-counting machines.

The gold bars were found in a safe and on the floor nearby inside locked closets in a bedroom, he said. Much of the cash was found stuffed in jacket pockets, in two pairs of boots and on a shelf in the home’s basement, he said.

One pair of Timberland boots contained $14,500 in cash nearly evenly divided while another set of boots also had cash stuffed in each boot, he said. 

A black jacket, which was among four jackets found to contain cash, had $21,000 in envelopes in its pockets, Kougemitros said. The other jackets, he added, had $4,300, $6,000 and $8,000. 

On a shelf nearby, he said, a plastic bag contained $100,000, while another bag held $95,000. 

The trial, which began Monday, is projected to last up to two months.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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