Menendez controversy: Officer at scene of future wife’s deadly car crash identified

Menendez controversy: Officer at scene of future wife’s deadly car crash identified

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A retired top policeman helped New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s wife-to-be leave the scene of her fatal car crash without a sobriety test or handing over her phone.

The New York Post has learned that Michael Mordaga, the former director of Hackensack Police and an ex-chief of detectives in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, was on the scene within minutes when Nadine Arslanian slammed her black Mercedes into Richard Koop in Bogota, N.J., in December 2018.

Mordaga, 66, helped her leave behind the totaled car and take her belongings from it after quizzing the patrolman dealing with the crash on what he planned to do.

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Dashcam footage and 911 recordings do not show Arslanian asking after the victim, but they do show her refusing to have her cellphone searched and also suggest she did not call 911 until officers were already on the scene — then told them the wrong location for the crash.

michael mordaga Laughing in a suit

Michael Mordaga seen in Hackensack, N.J., on April 4, 2013. (Viorel Florescu/USA Today, File)

A witness claimed that she told cops she was going to call someone for help.

At the time, Arslanian was dating both Menendez, whom she married in 2020, and her long-term boyfriend Douglas Anton, an attorney who went on to represent R. Kelly in his sex trafficking trial.

The fatal collision on Dec. 12, 2018, led to part of the sweeping bribery and corruption charges brought against Arslanian and Menendez, which they both deny.

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A month after the crash, Arslanian texted Wael Hana, an Egyptian-American businessman also indicted in the bribery scheme, about the loss of her car, and he later provided her with a 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible, worth $60,000, prosecutors allege.

Arslanian’s role in 49-year-old Koop’s death, however, only emerged Wednesday, in dashcam footage and other records released by the Bogota Police Department to NorthJersey.com.

Menendez’s future wife told cops she didn’t see Koop.

But she was driving her car fast enough that the collision flung Koop’s body to the curb just steps from his own house on East Main St. in Bogota, then crashed into a parked car.

Sheri Breen, an attorney for Koop’s estate, told NorthJersey.com that other footage from a business had shown that Arslanian “moved her car around his body as he was lying in the road and she did not come to his aid or to even check on him.”

Records also suggest that Arslanian was not the first person to call 911 after the crash, at 7.35 p.m., because the dispatcher told her an officer was already on the scene.

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She told the dispatcher she was in “Teaneck,” which borders on Bogota.

Koop was struck in front of 155 East Main Street in Bogota. That address is next door, just to the east, 311 DeGraw Ave. in Teaneck.

Arslanian, shivering in a fur coat and short dress as she stood in the road, initially agreed to allow cops to search her phone but then said she wanted an attorney because she “don’t want to say anything wrong.”

“Why was the guy standing in the middle of the road?” she asked. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Later she told the patrolman: “He jumped on my windshield.” The footage does not show her asking about the victim’s fate, but she is heard asking to get something that an officer said had gone “in the ambulance.”

Minutes later, the dashcam shows someone off-camera being asked: “You’re retired, you said?” That person, identified by the Post as Mordaga, said “yes,” and that he was retired from “Hackensack.”

In the footage, his voice could be heard as he said: “I don’t even know her. That’s my buddy’s wife who’s friends with her. He said could you do me a favor and take her up there because her friend just got in a car accident.”

Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine

Sen. Bob Menendez and wife Nadine Arslanian appear at the White House in May 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, File)

The “buddy’s wife” appears to be an unnamed friend who helped Arslanian take her possessions from the car.

Mordaga is also heard on the footage asking: “Are you guys getting a statement that you’re going to give to the prosecutor’s office?”

He was told by the patrolman, “I don’t believe so, as of right now. She’s good to grab her stuff from her car.”

Mordaga was also given details of the investigation, being told the victim was “walking in the middle of the road, that’s what we’re gathering.”

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“I believe we’re good to release her, as soon as she grabs her stuff from her car,” said the Bogota police officer on the video. Arslanian left without a summons.

But Sergio Uribe, who owned the parked car Arslanian hit, told The New York Times that he heard her tell cops she was going to call someone.

“I remember saying, ‘That woman is just allowed to leave? She’s not being arrested or anything?’” he told the Times.

Bob and Nadine walk into court hand in hand

Sen. Bob Menendez and wife Nadine arriving at federal court in New York City on Sept. 27, 2023. The senator is accused of using his post to advance Egyptian interests in secret and carry out favors for local businessmen in exchange for bribes of cash and gold bars. (AP Photo/Jeenah Moon)

Arslanian’s attorney declined to comment to the Post.

Both Arslanian, 56, and Menendez, 69, were indicted in Manhattan federal court last month along with three others in a brazen bribery scheme.

Prosecutors said the couple had amassed gold bullion and nearly $500,000 in cash at their home, as well as a new Mercedes convertible.

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A man who identified himself as Mordaga refused to comment Thursday after the Post reached him by phone, and directed all inquiries to the Bogota Police Department, which did not immediately return a request for comment.

An attorney representing Mordaga did not return a request for comment.

The former top cop has himself been accused of ratting out Frank Lagano, a reputed member of the Lucchese crime family, leading to his execution in the parking lot of an East Brunswick diner he co-owned in 2007.

The dead man’s family lost its federal lawsuit against Mordaga — who denied all wrongdoing — and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office earlier this year, but the family has appealed.

Mordaga was also hit with allegations in another federal complaint that he failed to intervene in a domestic violence incident involving two married police officers — Sara Malvasia and Niles Malvasia — from the Hackensack Police Department in 2015 when he was still in charge of the force.

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It was alleged that rather than arresting or disciplining the husband, he said: “There’s always female s–t going on. That’s why women can’t be police officers.’”

The 2017 federal suit was later settled, and the couple went on to win $1 million in a Powerball lottery in 2018.

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