Co-defendant in Sen. Bob Menendez corruption case pleads guilty

Jose Uribe leaves the Federal Court, after a hearing on bribery charges, in New York City, U.S. September 27, 2023. 

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

A co-defendant in the criminal corruption case against Sen. Bob Menendez pleaded guilty in New York federal court on Friday and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution of the New Jersey Democrat.

Menendez’s co-defendant Joe Uribe pleaded guilty to seven counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services fraud, and obstruction of justice.

The other defendants in the case — Menendez, the senator’s wife Nadine, and two other New Jersey businessmen — are scheduled to stand trial beginning May 6 in Manhattan federal court.

Uribe, who works in trucking and insurance, was indicted in September with the other defendants.

The Clifton, New Jersey, resident and other two businessmen men were accused of having a “corrupt relationship” with Menendez and Nadine Menendez.

The senator allegedly accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, a Mercedes-Benz convertible, home mortgage payments, and other things are part of that relationship.

Sen. Menendez is accused of, among other things, providing sensitive U.S government information that secretly aided the government of Egypt and pressuring a U.S. Agriculture Department official to protect a business monopoly in Egypt for one of the defendants, Wael Hana. The senator was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee to introduce U.S. district judge nominee and current Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Jamel Semper at a hearing on nominations on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. October 4, 2023. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Prosecutors have said that in 2019, Uribe and Hana offered to help buy the Mercedes, which was worth more than $60,000, for the Menendezes.

In exchange for that, Sen. Menendez agreed to and tried to interfere in an investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s criminal insurance fraud prosecution of an associate of Uribe, and a related probe of an employee of Uribe, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Uribe ended up giving Nadine Menendez $15,000 in cash for the downpayment on the Merceds in April 2019, prosecutors have said.

“Thereafter, Uribe made monthly payments to Mercedes-Benz for the convertible between 2019 and June 2022,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in September.

“Uribe only stopped making those monthly payments after the FBI approached Menendez, Nadine Menendez and Uribe in connection with this investigation.”

Uribe, who remains free on a $1 million personal recognizance bond, faces a maximum possible sentence of 30 years in prison, but is likely to receive a much lighter sentence than that, given federal sentencing guidelines and his promise to cooperate.

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