Fred Daibes, the New Jersey businessman entangled in the probe into Sen. Bob Menendez, is—according to his lawyer—an old friend of the embattled Democrat. But law enforcement sources and public records The Daily Beast consulted reveal that the real estate tycoon has other, older friends in circles even more unsavory than the U.S. Senate.
The Daily Beast was the first to report Daibes’ entanglement in the latest federal investigation into Menendez, after one of the waterfront developer’s attorneys disclosed in December that his client had retained separate counsel to deal with the Department of Justice. Both lawyers declined to comment for this story, but one told the Washington Post earlier this month that his relationship with Menendez dates back a quarter of a century. The paper further revealed Daibes had received a subpoena as part of the inquiry last year. The Washington Post was one of several outlets to publish stories confirming The Daily Beast’s earlier findings.
The Daily Beast can now exclusively report that, according to former organized crime investigators, Garden State authorities in charge of tracking members of La Cosa Nostra spied high-ranking mobsters meeting with Daibes repeatedly over the last decade. The retired law enforcement agents requested anonymity because they lacked formal authorization to discuss their work.
However, they identified one of the repeat visitors to the Daibes offices as Michael “Tona” Borelli, who died in 2020—but who in life was among the most powerful men in the New Jersey crew of the Genovese family, one of the five Italian mafia clans of New York City. In the 2000s, Borelli pled guilty to state and federal charges of running illegal gambling rings. As far back as 1996, the Jersey Journal identified him as one of the “three top Genovese operatives in New Jersey.”
One of the former investigators who spoke to The Daily Beast recalled that the meetings between the gangster and the property mogul typically took place shortly before Borelli drove to Manhattan to report to his superiors in the syndicate. The ex-lawmen remarked on the pervasive corruption of the New Jersey waterfront—particularly in Daibes’ home base of Edgewater.
“It makes South Hackensack look like the City on the Hill,” one laughed.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office would not confirm or deny to The Daily Beast that it possessed records of the surveillance described.
However, some publicly available material substantiates the claims. A New Jersey Commission of Investigation report released in May asserted that “Daibes wrote more than a dozen personal checks for unspecified payments totaling more than $100,000 to the son and daughter-in-law of a high-ranking Genovese crime family member who was a key operative in an illegal gambling ring run by the organized crime group in northern New Jersey in the 2000s.”
The state commission stated it had referred these findings to law enforcement.
In their official response to the report, Daibes’ attorneys contested the commission’s characterization of the transactions, asserting that the made man in question was a deceased “former friend,” and that the checks had helped underwrite a “legitimate business” launched by the surviving children of his fallen confrere. At no point, either in response to the state commission or to The Daily Beast did Daibes representatives contest that he had relationships with Genovese family members and associates.
The publicly available version of the commission report redacts the name of the late Genovese family member—but it alludes to his death in March 2020, when Borelli passed away, and also names the company which Daibes financially supported, which matches that of an enterprise Borelli’s daughter founded in 2018.
The Daily Beast discovered even further connections between Daibes and the Genovese organization. Multiple court documents identify Mark Iafelice as an employee of Waterside Construction, a Daibes-owned company. The Daily Beast confirmed that this is the same Mark Iafelice that the Bergen County Prosecutor described as a Genovese family associate following a 2008 gambling ring bust. Iafelice ultimately copped to the charges.
It was not Iafelice’s first brush with the law. Federal court records show the Drug Enforcement Administration nabbed him in a 1990 heroin sting that ended in a conviction for possession. He would later plead guilty to state-level controlled substance charges.
LexisNexis, a legal database, indicates Daibes and his brother lent Iafelice a six-figure sum during his federal trial 33 years ago. However, this case predates the modern U.S. court record system, and further information is not available online.
But The Daily Beast found that Daibes had advanced cash in Iafelice’s direction far more recently than that. Materials filed in Bergen County, New Jersey show that a company the developer controls granted an Iafelice-founded entity a $400,000 mortgage to purchase a home in December 2021. The records show that not only did Iafelice at the time reside in an apartment in a Daibes-owned development, but a Daibes company lawyer incorporated Iafelice’s property acquisition entity and used the Daibes offices as its mailing address.
Iafelice hung up on The Daily Beast moments into a phone conversation, and did not respond to subsequent calls or text messages.
Iafelice is far from Daibes’ only publicly documented link to the underworld. The state Commission of Investigation report from May identified yet another longtime Genovese family associate to whom Daibes provided free rent for 13 years.
In their public response to the report, Daibes’ attorneys cast this as a gesture of pure generosity toward an individual re-entering society from prison—and asserted that any suggestion their client has ties to organized crime are “truly defamatory and wholly unwarranted.”
“Mr. Daibes was simply providing housing to a friend in order to help him to obtain shelter following a period of incarceration,” the lawyers wrote. “He supports offering second chances to individuals who have had paid [sic] their debt to society and are seeking to reintegrate into the community as law-abiding and productive citizens.”
Further, Daibes himself is a confessed bank fraudster, and his longtime business partner Gazmend “Gus” Lita pled guilty in 2022 to operating an illegal gambling den on behalf of an ethnic Albanian criminal outfit known as the “Diamond Enterprise.”
Lita, in particular, appears tied to the Menendez investigation, which centers on companies operating out of the Daibes headquarters in Edgewater. As The Daily Beast first revealed in December, not only is Lita a donor to the senator and to political action committees supporting him, but he formerly served on the board of the India affiliate of IS EG Halal—a mysterious firm that in 2019 obtained an Egyptian government monopoly to certify meat exported to the Middle Eastern nation, an arrangement which has elicited federal scrutiny.
What’s more, the company that Daibes used to front money to Iafelice in 2021 also stepped in to help IS EG’s founder, Wael Hana, two years prior. A civil court document dated November 2019 shows the Daibes-owned lending firm, called East-West Funding, took over a host of six-figure judgments a check-cashing facility had obtained against Hana and his trucking and gas station concerns earlier in the decade.
Public records show that several of the Hana firms owing money to the check casher used a Jersey City address belonging to the American affiliate of ElFath Import & Export, a long-standing Egyptian dealer in produce and legumes. ElFath did not respond to questions from The Daily Beast about its relationship with Hana and his businesses.
How Egyptian authorities selected Hana, a Christian, to verify the country’s entire meat supply was slaughtered in compliance with Islamic religious rules has remained a mystery—as has what role, if any, Menendez played in these dealings.
There is no evidence of a direct connection between Menendez and any member or associate of the Genovese family, a point The Daily Beast made explicit to the senator when it reached out for comment. Nonetheless, a spokesperson for the Democrat accused The Daily Beast of attempting “to create shadows and innuendo where none exist.”
“Trying to allege that because the Senator received a campaign donation from an individual who allegedly knows people accused of being part of the Genovese crime family is in itself implying some sort of guilt by association,” said press secretary Jennifer Morrill.
Morill noted that Daibes is a profuse donor to New Jersey politicians, and insisted it would be “libelous and irresponsible” not to name the whole host of them in this story, or to include any reference to the senator at all. However, Daibes’ lawyers have not claimed all those elected officials are quarter-century-old friends of their client—nor are all of them presently the subject of federal probes involving the developer, as Menendez is.
The Daily Beast did reach out to Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland, who Daibes’ lawyers asserted was “close friends” with their client’s brother, and to Nick Sacco, mayor and state lawmaker for the Township of North Bergen, who has also received a subpoena as part of the investigation into Menendez and Daibes.
McPartland referred The Daily Beast to his official comment on the state commission’s report, and specifically on its allegations he had received a discount on the apartment he rents from the developer.
“I have known Fred Daibes and his family for 50 years, His brother Joseph and I grew up together,” McPartland wrote in his formal statement to the state commission in May. “Of course, I have a relationship with him as mayor, it would be ignorant not to. Notwithstanding that, in my capacity as mayor I have never provided Mr. Daibes with any benefit he was not otherwise entitled to and take serious offense at the innuendo that I have.”
A spokesperson for Sacco, meanwhile, repeated past assertions that the politician is complying with the federal subpoena—and insisted he was not the investigation’s target.
“Mayor Sacco has been assured that he is not a target of the investigation and was approached only as a potential witness, and he intends to cooperate fully and provide any requested information as he would with any legal matter,” the Democrat’s representative said.
A source close to Sacco told The Daily Beast that he had once enjoyed warm relations with Daibes, a considerable donor to his electoral efforts, but their rapport had cooled in recent years amid disputes over the developer’s projects.