Witness Testifies He Bribed Sen. Bob Menendez with Mercedes-Benz for Influence

Jimmy Williams

In the ongoing corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez, a key witness testified on Friday that he bribed the New Jersey Democrat and gave his wife, Nadine Menendez, a new Mercedes-Benz convertible to gain “power and influence.” Jose Uribe, a New Jersey insurance broker indicted alongside Menendez, pleaded guilty in March. He confessed to buying the $60,000 luxury car to sway the senator. Menendez has denied accepting any bribes.

Uribe testified that he agreed to provide Nadine Menendez the car in exchange for the senator’s help in halting criminal investigations conducted by the New Jersey attorney general’s office into two of his associates. He stated that he bribed the senator with Wael Hana, the owner of a halal certification startup, alleged by prosecutors to have been used to pay bribes to the couple.

Throughout the trial, now in its fourth week, prosecutors have presented text messages, emails, voicemails, and financial records to show the senator and his wife as collaborators in a complex bribery scheme. This scheme involved a halal meat monopoly, the Egyptian and Qatari governments, and attempts to influence several criminal investigations.

Sen. Menendez is being tried alongside two New Jersey businessmen, Hana and Fred Daibes, a real estate developer. All three have pleaded not guilty. Nadine Menendez’s trial was delayed due to her breast cancer treatment. She has also pleaded not guilty.

Evidence presented by prosecutors included text messages from Nadine Menendez complaining to Hana about her lack of a car after a December 2018 crash that killed a pedestrian. She was not charged in the incident.

Uribe was desperate to help a business associate charged with insurance fraud and an employee under investigation. He testified that Hana told him they could resolve these issues for $200,000 to $250,000 and connected him with the Menendezes.

In January 2019, the senator called New Jersey’s attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, to try to disrupt the insurance fraud case. The alleged interference failed, and Uribe’s associate eventually pleaded guilty. However, the investigation into Uribe’s employee continued.

Uribe testified that he agreed to buy Nadine Menendez a car, and in return, the senator would try to halt the investigation. By early April 2019, Nadine Menendez had her new car, with Uribe providing $15,000 in cash for the down payment in a restaurant parking lot. She allegedly texted the senator, “Congratulations mon amour de la vie we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes.”

Uribe later arranged car payments, instructing an associate to avoid using his name. In messages shown to jurors, Uribe texted Nadine Menendez about the employee, saying, “Please help.” She allegedly responded, “I will not let you down.”

Prosecutors say Sen. Menendez contacted Grewal days later to set up a meeting. Grewal testified that Menendez raised concerns about the handling of cases involving Hispanic defendants. After the meeting, another attorney present remarked, “Whoa, that was gross.”

Following an FBI search of the Menendezes’ home in June 2022, where agents found stacks of cash, gold bars, and the Mercedes, Uribe and Nadine Menendez discussed what he would say about the car payments. Uribe claimed he would say he was helping a financially struggling friend, and Nadine Menendez approved the story.

Prosecutors allege the senator then wrote a check to his wife, who wrote one to Uribe, framing it as a loan to cover up the earlier bribe. Menendez’s attorneys argue that he was unaware of his wife’s dealings with the businessmen accused of bribing them, with attorney Avi Weitzman stating, “She kept Bob sidelined from those conversations.”

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