‘Don’t trust the banks.’ Sen. Menendez’s sister takes the stand to defend her brother

Caridad Gonzalez testified that it was normal in her family to stash away money for an emergency.

Chris Keating

Jul 1, 2024, 4:27 PM

Updated 18 days ago


Attorneys for Sen. Bob Menendez are getting their chance to defend their client against accusations that he was taking bribes. The first witness called to defend the senator was his sister, 80-year-old Caridad Gonzalez.
Gonzalez explained to jurors why it should be of no surprise that her brother had $400,000 in cash stashed away in jackets, bags and even boots.
She said that because of the family’s Cuban background, it should come as no shock that her “baby brother,” as she described him, had a large amount of cash inside of his and wife Nadine Menendez’s Englewood Cliff’s home.
“It was normal, he’s a Cuban,” Gonzalez stated. “Every Cuban that came to the U.S. in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, you’ll find cash in the home. In Cuba, they take everything away from you.”
She explained that she was born in Cuba and the family had left Havana for the U.S. because her father’s business was being threatened with a takeover.
Gonzalez said her mother and father always hid cash and told their children to do the same.
“Daddy always said, ‘Don’t trust the banks, always have money at home,’” she said. "My mom would take some out [of her check] and in the frames of the closet, she would stick it in there."
The defense is trying to show it was Menendez’s cultural upbringing that caused the senator to hoard cash - not bribery.
Menendez and his wife are accused of taking bribes of cash and gold from defendants Fred Daibes and Wael Hana. The feds allege Daibes wanted help in landing a $95 million investment deal with the royal family of Qatar.
Menendez is also accused of approving military aid for Egypt. In return, the government says, Hana would become the sole certifier of halal meat to the country.
Following Gonzalez, Nadine’s sister, Katia Tabourian took the stand.
She told the jurors, that the family was from Lebanon where it was common to give gold as a gift.
The defense was trying to show that gold found in Nadine’s closet could have been gifts from relatives when born or given to her by their father. However, on cross-examination, Tabourian was asked about an inventory of gold shown to jurors which was owned by her father and dated back to 1976.
The prosecutor asked, “Do you have any idea if the serial numbers correspond with the numbers of gold owned by Fred Daibes?”
To which Tabourian said, “No.”
Prosecutors stated much earlier in the trial that serial numbers on gold found in Nadine’s closet corresponded with the inventory of gold belonging to defendant Fred Daibes.
The defense is expected to call several more witnesses. It’s still not clear if the senator will take the stand.

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