New Jersey Businessman Testifies Against Sen. Bob Menendez In Bribery Trial

In a significant turn of events, Jose Uribe, a New Jersey businessman, testified on Friday in the bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). Uribe revealed that in 2018, he believed he had struck a deal worth $200,000 to $250,000 for Menendez to use his influence to halt investigations by the New Jersey attorney general’s office into Uribe’s associates.

Uribe, 57, who admitted guilt earlier this year as part of a plea agreement, took the stand in Manhattan federal court. His testimony is central to the prosecution’s case against Menendez, who is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for political favors. Menendez, along with two other businessmen and his wife, Nadine Menendez, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The businessman recounted that his friend, Wael Hana, who is also on trial, told him in early 2018 that ongoing state criminal investigations into his trucking and insurance businesses could be mitigated for a substantial fee. Hana indicated that he would approach Nadine Menendez, who had started dating the senator, to relay the request.

Uribe hosted a fundraiser for Menendez on July 13, 2018, which raised $50,000. Despite attending an afterparty with Menendez and his future wife, Uribe stated that no mention of the deal was made during the event. However, Uribe’s confidence in the arrangement waned when an investigator from the attorney general’s office sought to interview his employee later that year.

Through a series of text messages presented in court, Uribe pressed Hana to ensure that Menendez was aware of his expectations. “Please be sure that your friend knows about this,” Uribe texted Hana, referring to Menendez. Hana reassured him, saying, “I will.”

A dinner arranged in October 2018 with Menendez and Nadine Menendez also yielded no discussion of the deal, which Uribe described as a “pointless meeting.” By March 2019, Uribe began communicating directly with Nadine Menendez, promising her a car if she could persuade the senator to stop the investigations. “She agreed to the terms,” Uribe testified, explaining that he believed Nadine Menendez would leverage her husband’s influence to halt the probes.

Former New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal testified that Menendez attempted to discuss an active criminal investigation with him in early 2019 and again in September 2019. Grewal stated that he refused to engage, advising Menendez to have defense lawyers contact trial-level prosecutors or the judge.

Uribe’s guilty plea in March included an admission that he provided Nadine Menendez with a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for her husband’s influence. The car was purchased after her previous vehicle was destroyed in an accident where she struck and killed a pedestrian, a case in which she faced no charges.

Menendez, who has denied all allegations, stated, “Next week we get the truth,” as he left the court. The senator, who once chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was forced to step down following the charges.

The trial continues with Menendez’s defense team set to cross-examine Uribe next week. The senator’s defense hinges on challenging Uribe’s credibility and the prosecution’s narrative of corruption and influence peddling.