• Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

Co-defendant of Sen. Bob Menendez pleads guilty in bribery scheme

Co-defendant of Sen. Bob Menendez pleads guilty in bribery scheme


A New Jersey businessman charged alongside Sen. Bob Menendez in his sweeping Manhattan bribery case copped to a litany of charges Friday and is cooperating against the embattled pol.

At an undisclosed proceeding in Manhattan federal court, Jose Uribe withdrew his previous not-guilty plea, admitting to conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services wire fraud, obstruction of justice, tax evasion and related conspiracy counts.

The former insurance broker, who also worked in the trucking business, acknowledged he fronted thousands towards a sports car for the senator’s wife and codefendant, Nadine Menendez, in exchange for the powerful New Jersey Democrat’s help pressuring state investigators to resolve criminal probes into his associates favorably.

Uribe agreed to cooperate against Menendez and his co-defendants, who are headed to trial in May, according to a copy of his plea agreement obtained by the Daily News. His lawyer, Dan Fetterman, declined to comment.

FILE - Jose Uribe leaves federal court, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in New York. The New Jersey businessman has pleaded guilty to trying to bribe U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. Uribe entered the plea in Manhattan federal court on Friday.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Jose Uribe leaves federal court, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Menendez has pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including conspiring to act as a foreign agent for Egypt by secretly pulling strings for the Middle Eastern nation from his influential perch as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Similarly, he abused his position to advance Qatari government interests in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in lavish gifts — including gold bullion bars, flashy watches and Formula 1 tickets — prosecutors say.

Uribe, 56, of Clifton, N.J., is one of three businessmen charged in the scheme last September and has been out on a $1 million bond since first appearing in court. He’s now set to be a key witness against the Menendezes and the other businessmen, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, when they go on trial before Judge Sidney Stein on May 6. All deny the allegations.

In his Friday plea, Uribe admitted to conspiring to bribe the senator with extravagant gifts in exchange for reaping the benefits of his vast influence for six years starting in 2018. Specifically, he admitted that in May 2019, he directed a Bronx-based associate to make payments on a Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible worth more than $60,000 for Menendez’s wife to elicit the senator’s help meddling in the criminal investigations into his associates.

“The deal is to kill and stop all investigation,” Uribe wrote in an April 2018 text to Hana, quoted in court papers.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine, arrive at Manhattan Federal Court in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine, arrive at Manhattan Federal Court in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for New York Daily News)

In April 2019, Menendez’s wife told Uribe in a text, “You are a miracle worker who makes dreams come true I will always remember that,” a day before he met her in a parking lot with $15,000 cash that she used to make a down payment on the new car, according to charging papers filed last October.

The gift replaced a Mercedes that Nadine Menendez crashed in an accident killing 49-year-old New Jersey man Richard Koop the year before in Bogota. Menendez’s then-girlfriend, who didn’t face any charges, told cops Koop walked into the path of her car and was permitted to leave the scene without submitting to a drug or alcohol test, according to reporting in The Record.

“Congratulations mon amour de la vie [love of my life], we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes,” she is quoted as texting her husband after securing the vehicle.

A luxury vehicle authorities said was owned by Sen. Robert Menendez.
A luxury vehicle authorities say was owned by Sen. Bob Menendez. (United States Attorney General’s Office)

In 2022 and 2023, Uribe caused his attorney to lie to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to filings, claiming that payments on the luxury convertible were loans. He also admitted to dodging taxes between 2016 and 2021.

Under the terms of his plea agreement, Uribe will make good with tax authorities by at least two weeks before he’s sentenced June 14 and will forfeit $246,000 stemming from a fraudulently obtained loan. In exchange for his cooperation and trial testimony, the feds will recommend he receive a more lenient prison term than the 95 years the charges carry, court docs detail. A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, Nicholas Biase, declined to comment.

Reps for Menendez, 70, who vehemently denies wrongdoing, did not respond to requests for comment. After his indictment, he stepped down from his chairman role but has refused to resign from the Senate despite loud calls from his colleagues, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

“The government’s latest charge flies in the face of my long record of standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt and in challenging leaders of that country, including President [Abdel Fattah] El-Sisi on these issues,” Menendez said in October.

“I have been, throughout my life, loyal to only one country — the United States of America, the land my family chose to live in democracy and freedom.”



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