New Jersey businessman testifies that Senator Menendez bragged about alleged bribes
8 mins read

New Jersey businessman testifies that Senator Menendez bragged about alleged bribes



CNN

For more than four weeks, Senator Bob Menendez played a rather marginal role in the bribery and corruption trial. On Monday, the Democrat from New Jersey became the main character in federal court in Lower Manhattan.

The prosecution’s star witness, businessman Jose Uribe, told the jury for the first time that Menendez helped direct the broader conspiracy that ensnared the senator; his wife Nadine Menendez; and two co-defendants.

In his testimony, Uribe, who pleaded guilty before trial and is cooperating with prosecutors, described Menendez as a Godfather-like person who dominated others and, through his actions and attitude, gave the impression of an all-powerful figure with enormous influence on all areas of life.

Menendez, according to Uribe, rarely asked any questions and only presented his plans and actions with a pinch of salt. But months after allegedly delivering key elements of the bribery scheme, Menendez sat back, crossed his arms over his stomach, during a 2020 dinner with Uribe and reminded the businessman of everything he had done.

“I saved your ass twice. Not once, but twice,’ Menendez told him in Spanish, Uribe testified.

Nadine and her adult daughter, who were also at dinner, had just excused themselves to use the bathroom. Before they returned, the senator boasted that it wasn’t a difficult job, but Uribe said his body language suggested he was “proud and confident that he had succeeded.”

Uribe, who was the first to take the stand on Friday, described a series of meetings with Bob and Nadine Menendez in which he sought the senator’s help in quashing an indictment against an associate and a state investigation that he feared would ultimately lead to his affairs and closure. friends who nominally ran them. These concerns, Uribe stated, led him to use his relationship with Nadine Menendez – in particular the Mercedes-Benz convertible he purchased for her – to obtain an audience with the senator and ultimately to intervene, which led to the Menendezes being charged with conspiring to accept the gold bar , cubes of cash and a fancy car in exchange for a series of political and legal favors. (Nadine Menendez, who is being treated for breast cancer, is facing a separate trial, likely in July.)

Bob Menendez’s lawyers sought to present him with an afterthought on the matter. In their opening statements, they urged the jury to consider the question “Where’s Bob?” – claiming that he was either unaware or not involved in the machinations alleged by prosecutors. As they claimed, his then-girlfriend Nadine was driving the bus, and the senator showed only partial, passive awareness of her actions.

Uribe told a different story.

During one meeting on Nadine’s backyard patio in September 2019, the night before Menendez’s meeting with New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, Uribe said the senator asked him to write down the names of people and companies that were the subject of Uribe’s “concern.” ”

According to Uribe, after a short conversation, Menendez called out “mon amour” to Nadine, who was at home, while ringing a small bell placed on their table in the yard. Nadine left with the paper and disappeared inside before Uribe began writing.

Uribe said the senator did not provide much information in return. The next morning, Uribe texted Nadine – according to phone calls – thanking her “for everything you do for me” and saying he was “praying that today’s meeting will be in GOD’s hands.” Even then, Uribe said, he didn’t know who Menendez would be sitting with.

But a few hours later, he received another message from Nadine, this time asking to meet the senator at Menendez’s New Jersey apartment building. (The couple was not yet married and lived in separate apartments). Uribe recalled walking in and seeing Menendez talking to the receptionist in the lobby. Then they both went to a quieter corner and started talking.

“It looks like there’s nothing there in what you asked me,” Menendez said, according to Uribe, who took it to mean that since nothing had been formally established, he shouldn’t worry about an investigation into his case anymore . companies or colleagues.

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg/Getty Images

New Jersey businessman Jose Uribe leaves federal court in New York on June 10, 2024.

Uribe said he emerged optimistic but unsure. He lent Nadine’s aid by buying her a new car after she destroyed her old one in a fatal accident – a detail that was not revealed to the jury – and desperately wanted her to help him “stop and kill” his impending legal troubles.

“Peace,” as Uribe put it, came just in time. About eight weeks later, he received a phone call at his home with area code 202 – from Washington. Menendez was on the other side, Uribe said, and gave him the good news.

“What you asked me about, there’s nothing there,” Menendez told him. “I’m giving you your ‘room.’

When Uribe spoke about the conversation, he became emotional. His work turned out well. His fears were overcome – he said it was all thanks to Bob Menendez. He texted Nadine: “I got the call and I’m a very happy person.”

“God bless you and him forever,” she replied.

A few days later, Uribe and his co-worker met the couple at a local restaurant. Prosecutors showed the court a photo of the foursome smiling broadly with raised glasses of champagne – the champagne had been sent to their table by other guests. Uribe said one reason for celebration remained unspoken.

Instead, they toasted the engagement of Nadine and Bob, who are scheduled to marry in 2020.

“It was the right place for that day,” an emotional Uribe told the court.

Their meetings slowed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit a few months later. The dinner where Menendez urged care for Uribe only took place in August 2020, when they met to eat outside.

Nearly two years passed, and Uribe kept in contact with the Menendezes while trying to obtain a new insurance broker’s license. His first had been overturned in a separate investigation years earlier. He said Monday that little has come of those efforts other than leading to a dead end.

Uribe said he learned of the investigation that ultimately led him to plead guilty and testify against the senator in June 2022 when FBI agents showed up at his home, took his cellphone and served him with “subpoenas” to produce various documents and records largely related to his payment for Nadine Menendez’s Mercedes.

Nadine Menendez and Uribe met again – in the bar of the Marriott Hotel in New Jersey, the same place where Uribe and two associates first hatched the plan during Wael Hana’s sacrifice. An Egyptian-American businessman – a co-defendant in the case – told them he could use his friendship with Nadine Menendez to get the senator’s help. According to Hana, it would cost between $200,000 and $250,000.

During the 2022 chat, Nadine Menendez and Uribe shared notes about the federal investigation. She asked him, and he said what he planned to tell the FBI about the car payment. Uribe told her he planned to say he was helping a friend and expected to be repaid.

He said Nadine Menendez approved the plan. The payments will be considered a loan. She sent his lawyer a check for $21,000, significantly less than the amount he spent on the Mercedes.

How, prosecutor Lara Pomerantz asked, did she arrive at this number?

“I have no idea,” Uribe said.

That was the last time they spoke.