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Businessman Pleads Guilty to Bribing U.S. Senator Menendez (D. NJ); Will Cooperate with Prosecutors

 

by Dana DiFilippo, New Jersey Monitor
March 1, 2024

One of the businessmen accused of bribing Sen. Bob Menendez entered a surprise guilty plea on Friday in federal court in Manhattan.

Jose Uribe, an insurance broker, was indicted for giving Menendez’s wife, Nadine, cash in 2019 for a down payment on a Mercedes-Benz convertible and making payments until authorities served search warrants on Menendez’s home in June 2022.

Uribe had pleaded not guilty in October, but Friday, he appeared with his attorneys in court before Judge Sidney H. Stein to change that plea, waive his right to a trial, and plead guilty to seven criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion.

Stein set a sentencing date of June 14. Uribes’ attorney, Daniel J. Fetterman, declined to comment afterward.

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 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife, Nadine, arrive for a court appearance at Manhattan Federal Court on September 27, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

 

ManSen. Menendez, a Democrat, has denied any wrongdoing in the case and accuses prosecutors of pursuing a vendetta because a prior corruption case targeting the senator ended in a mistrial in 2017.

Uribe has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the current case, according to a plea agreement he signed Friday.

Federal prosecutors initially accused Uribe of gifting the Mercedes-Benz to Nadine Menendez to persuade the senator to intervene in the criminal prosecution of his friend.

superseding information filed Friday detailed further offenses, including conspiring to obstruct the federal investigation, insisting the bribes were loans, evading taxes from 2016 through 2021 by setting up businesses in other people’s names, failing to report income from those companies, filing false tax returns, and using fake tax returns to seek loans from the bank and the federal Small Business Association.

Uribe was ordered to forfeit proceeds from his crimes, including $246,000 investigators were able to trace to his offenses, according to the superseding document. He faces up to 95 years in prison if convicted of all counts, according to the plea agreement.

Federal authorities first indicted Menendez in September, accusing him of accepting gold bars, cash, and more to use his influence, as a longtime senator and chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to help Uribe, businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, and the nation of Egypt.

Menendez, his wife, and the other co-defendants have pleaded not guilty. A trial is set to start May 6.

A man who answered the phone at Paul Hastings, the New York firm that represents Menendez, declined to comment Friday.

The firm sent Stein a letter Thursday asking him to order the U.S. Department of Justice to share documents cited in the indictment relating to allegations that Menendez inappropriately intervened in a criminal prosecution. Attorneys Avi Weitzman and Adam Fee wrote that the documents could contain exculpatory material and accused the government of withholding them “purely for tactical reasons.”

Lauren Scarff, a spokeswoman from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, declined to comment.

Menendez, who has resisted calls to resign, has not announced any bid for reelection. Democrats U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, labor leader Patricia Campos-Medina, and civil rights activist Larry Hamm and Republicans hotelier Curtis Bashaw, Mendham Borough Mayor Christine Serrano Glassner, and former News12 reporter Alex Zdan all are running for the seat, which Menendez has held since 2006.

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