Crime

‘It’s a Cuban thing’: Menendez’s sister testifies family often hid cash in home

Sen. Bob Menendez‘s (D-NJ) sister testified on Monday that storing cash in one’s home is a “Cuban thing” in an attempt to explain why federal agents found $480,000 in cash during a raid at the senator’s New Jersey home last year. Caridad Gonzalez, 80, told a New York jury her family was forced to leave […]

Sen. Bob Menendez‘s (D-NJ) sister testified on Monday that storing cash in one’s home is a “Cuban thing” in an attempt to explain why federal agents found $480,000 in cash during a raid at the senator’s New Jersey home last year.

Caridad Gonzalez, 80, told a New York jury her family was forced to leave everything behind when they fled Cuba and that the only money they had was what her father hid in the false bottom of a grandfather clock.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) leaves federal court following the day’s proceedings in his bribery trial on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Larry Neumeister)

She insisted that Cubans often hid cash at home because they were distrustful of the banks and government. 


“It’s a Cuban thing,” said Gonzalez, the first witness to testify for the defense. “They were afraid of losing what they worked so hard for.”

Gonzalez was 8 years old when her parents fled Cuba, three years before Menendez was born in New York City. Gonzalez said her parents stashed cash in their home when they got to the United States, where her father worked as a clothing manufacturer and carpenter. 

Specifically, he kept cash in a shoebox on a shelf in the closet, while her mother stored money in the door frame of a closet. Her aunt had $60,000 in a bag in the basement of her home, which was only discovered after there was a fire. 

Gonzalez testified that the habit of keeping cash on hand had been drilled into her and her brother by their parents, who often told harrowing tales of police officers pressuring their father to shut down a manufacturing facility he operated. 

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“Daddy always said: ‘Don’t trust the banks. If you trust the banks, you never know what can happen. So you must always have money at home,’” she said. 

Gonzalez’s testimony was key for the defense as it tried to explain why FBI agents had found 13 gold bars, cash, and other pricey items at Menendez’s home. 

Prosecutors on Friday rested their case against the longtime senator accused of trading his political influence to the highest bidder. 

The government spent the past seven weeks painting Menendez as a greedy politician who held court in his New Jersey home, rang a tiny silver bell to summon his wife, and puffed on cigars. It claimed he agreed to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for steering aid to Egypt, helping facilitate a halal meat monopoly, and disrupting criminal investigations on behalf of friends.

Menendez, 70, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were both charged in the yearslong scheme.

She was supposed to be on trial with her husband, but her court date has been pushed back to at least August while she recovers from breast cancer.

Bob Menendez is on trial with two of the New Jersey businessmen accused of bribing him after a third pleaded guilty and cut a deal with the government. 

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The defense in the senator’s case is supposed to take at least three days.

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Bob Menendez, Nadine Menendez, Wael Hana, and Fred Daibes have all pleaded not guilty.

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