Bob Menendez’s wife partied with Mob Wives and Real Housewives then two-timed her attorney boyfriend to become the senator’s lover, The Post can reveal.
And during their tumultuous courtship, the New Jersey Democrat sent Capitol Police officers to his love rival’s office to “bully him out of the picture,” the attorney — who represented R. Kelly during his sex-trafficking trial — told The Post.
Nadine Arslanian Menendez is now facing up to 45 years in prison, accused of conspiring with her husband to commit fraud, bribery and extortion by selling the power of his office to the Egyptian government and two New Jersey businessmen in exchange for a convertible Mercedes, gold bars and cash he stashed in his jackets.
She and Menendez pleaded not guilty at federal court in Manhattan Wednesday, with Arslanian bringing a $2,300 quilted Chanel bag for their first joint court appearance.
“I’m just heartsick about her,” said a woman who identified herself as a close relative. “I’ve been crying all day. She is an upstanding person. Nothing in her life prepared her for this.”
Marriage to a senator should have been the culmination of an American dream for Arslanian, who was born in 1967 in Beirut, Lebanon, in a wealthy Armenian household.
She and sister Katia each had their own governess, a family friend told The Post.
But when the country descended into civil war in 1975 the family fled first to Greece and then to London and Palo Alto, Calif., then settled on a leafy suburban street in Nassau County where her parents Garbis and Ida Tabourian were staunch supporters of the Armenian community.
Arslanian attended New York University, graduating with undergraduate and masters degrees in international politics and French history, then married New Jersey developer Raffi Arslanian and had two children. They bought a modest home in Englewood Cliffs, with plans to tear it down,
“They wanted to build their dream home, but the whole thing fell apart,” attorney Douglas Anton told The Post.
He started dating Arslanian in 2011 and did some legal work for her.
He also represented R. Kelly at the trial which ended with the star’s conviction for sex trafficking.
Kelly was jailed for 30 years.
After the couple divorced in 2005, Arslanian struggled to raise daughter Sabine, and son Andre.
The children studied at the elite Lycée Français in Manhattan where tuition tops $46,000 a year — and she would take them to a Union City IHOP on the commute.
That was how she met Menendez, at the IHOP in 2008 — not December 2018, as he claimed in an interview with the New York Times in 2021 — said Anton.
The owner of the restaurant introduced her to the senator, he said.
“They maintained a friendship,” said Anton. “She used to call him every year on his birthday. Sometimes he invited her for lunch if he was doing an event in New Jersey and she would go with one of her girlfriends.”
A decade-long friendship is the opposite of the account Arslanian and Menendez gave to the Times’ “Vows” column in which she claimed that they met in December 2018 and she had no idea who he was.
“We were introduced by the owner of the IHOP, and I didn’t know at that time that Bob was a senator,” Arslanian said in 2021. “He was very intelligent and had a great sense of humor, and he was very, very hot.”
While keeping up a friendship with Menendez, Arslanian enjoyed partying with the stars of “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” including Jacqueline Laurita, at venues including Kim “Kim D.” DePaola’s boutique Posche in Allendale, NJ.
She also socialized with “Mob Wives” stars Karen Gravano (daughter of Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano) and Brittany Fogarty — daughter of convicted mobster John Fogarty — and her mom Andrea Giovino, once nicknamed the “real-life Carmela Soprano.”
And she hung out with “Iron Chef” star Marc Forgione at the now-closed Englewood Cliffs branch of his American Cut steakhouses and enjoyed nights out at upscale Manhattan restaurant Boulud Sud.
Another friend was former Gambino family enforcer turned celebrity author John Alite, who testified against mobster John Gotti in 2008, and has written several books about his time in the underworld.
“She’s a goodhearted woman, but she was having a hard time financially,” Alite told The Post Wednesday. “We were friends. She used to help me pick out gifts for my girlfriends.”
Financially pressed, Arslanian moved daughter Sabine and son Andre from the Lycée to public schools closer to the family’s home.
“It was a great little family, really tight-knit,” said Michael Mathews, who used to date Sabine, whom he met when they both attended Cresskill High School. “Nadine was a sweetheart and a very caring mother who did everything she could for her kids, even though she barely had enough to get by.”
Mathews, who used to work as a paralegal in Anton’s New Jersey law office, said he sometimes helped out by picking up Arslanian’s kids from school.
“Sometimes she only had $20, and gave it to me for gas so that I could pick them up, ” he said. “She had a horrible financial situation and had to do odd jobs. She sometimes helped a friend who was a hair stylist.”
Despite her financial troubles, she kept up her relationship with Anton, and on Christmas Eve in 2017 the couple lovingly sang Bon Jovi’s “Always” together.
But a few days later, on January 1, 2018, she picked up the phone to wish her friend Sen. Menendez a happy 64th birthday — and her life changed.
Menendez was fresh from his bribery trial ending in a hung jury, and at the time was expecting to be retried.
The Department of Justice dropped the charges after the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of bribing a public official.
Menendez asked if she was still dating “that Doug lawyer,” and told her that he had been in love with her since 2008, said Anton.
For the next several months, Arslanian dated both men “on and off,” Anton told The Post, adding that the situation was fraught with tension and jealousy.
At one point, in May 2018, Menendez dispatched two Capitol Police officers to Anton’s office in Hackensack, Anton said.
“He wanted to bully me out of the picture,” said Anton. “As soon as they left, I had my security team sweep the building.”
A spokesperson for Capitol Police refused to comment Thursday, and Anton told The Post that nothing ever came of the visit from the police.
Arslanian was broke and facing foreclosure on her Bergen County home at the time, but she had a weakness for designer outfits and a taste for the high-life.
Prosecutors said she was unemployed.
“She was in this fancy Cinderella role when she started dating Menendez,” a friend said.
Arslanian appears to have been drawn to Menendez’s power and access to the high life.
During their romance, Menendez invited the statuesque blonde to high-level meetings with dignitaries, and even offered to help her with a job, friends told The Post.
Although friends warned Arslanian against dating the senator, she seemed giddy with excitement, they said.
“He sold her a dream,” said Alite. “I told her, ‘Nadine, this guy’s… not for you.’ He really manipulated her. She thought she was going to marry Doug, but Menendez wooed her away. He manipulated her; he made her feel important. He was promising her the world.”
For Arslanian, who was facing foreclosure on her Englewood Cliffs property, the prospect of being the senator’s girlfriend seemed too good to be true.
Soon she started traveling with Menendez on trips to Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, as well as Colombia and Greece.
“She did like high-end things,” said Mathews. “She cared about materialistic things, and in many ways was a very gullible person especially if someone had money and power.”
Menendez wooed her in other ways.
He worked hard to convince the US Senate to adopt a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide — an issue that was of paramount importance to her family, especially her father, now 93.
Arslanian told the Armenian Report podcast that 13 “immediate members” of her family were killed in the 1915 genocide.
“It’s very hard when I think about what they went through,” Arslanian said. “My paternal grandfather’s dream was to have the world recognize what we went through.”
On Dec. 12, 2019, Menendez announced that the resolution had passed the Senate and choked up when he made the televised announcement.
He texted Arslanian, by then his fiancée, that afternoon: “Truth, perseverance and a commitment to a cause greater than yourself, in honor of your family, and all who suffered, I hope your father was watching,” read the text that Arslanian shared on the podcast. He added “Never Forget” in Armenian script.
“He is very, very caring, almost to a fault,” Arslanian said about Menendez on the podcast. “Whatever he does, I support him.”
Menendez proposed to Arslanian in front of the Taj Mahal on an official trip to India in 2019.
He sang “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” before presenting her with a ring.
The couple married in an Armenian church in Bayside, Queens, in October, 2020.
In an interview with the New York Times’ “Vows” column he claimed they had only met in December 2019, long after photographs show them together.
Now friends fear that the senator may throw his wife under the bus to save his career.
“She’s a victim,” said Alite. “Trust me 110 percent, this guy manipulated the s–t out of her. He used her and manipulated her. As a senator, he’s a half-a–ed gangster.”
Attorneys representing both Arslanian and Menendez did not return requests for comment.