New Jersey businessman cooperating with prosecutors testifies at Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial

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New Jersey businessman cooperating with prosecutors testifies at Sen. Bob Menendez's bribery trial

NEW YORK (AP) — A New Jersey businessman who pleaded guilty in the bribery case against Sen. Bob Menendez began testifying Friday as the key witness in the month-old trial in Manhattan, telling a jury that another businessman mentioned the Democrat and his wife in 2018 as he told him that in return for $200,000 to $250,000, he would make his legal troubles go away.

Jose Uribe started testifying in Manhattan federal court, providing key testimony against Menendez and two other businessmen charged in a conspiracy along with Menendez’s wife.

Uribe, 57, was the star witness for the government in its bid to win a conviction against the senator, who once held the powerful post as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was forced out of the position after charges were lodged against him last fall.

Menendez, 70, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he accepted gold bars, cash and a luxury car in return for doing favors for the businessmen. The other businessmen and Menendez’s wife, Nadine Menendez, also have pleaded not guilty. Nadine Menendez’s trial has been postponed until at least July after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Uribe testified that he was close friends with Wael Hana, who is on trial with Menendez, when Hana told him in early 2018 that New Jersey state criminal investigations swirling around the trucking business of a friend of his and his own insurance business could be largely put to rest if he was willing to spend $200,000 to $250,000.

Uribe said Hana told him that he would go to Nadine Menendez and then “Nadine would go to Senator Menendez,” although Uribe did not immediately testify specifically about what role the couple could play in resolving multiple investigations.

Uribe, of Clifton, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in March, saying during his plea that he gave Nadine Menendez a Mercedes-Benz in return for her husband “using his power and influence as a United States senator to get a favorable outcome and to stop all investigations related to one of my associates.”

As part of the plea, Uribe agreed to forfeit $246,000, representing proceeds traceable to his crimes.

Uribe remains free on a $1 million bond, which was set when he was arrested.

Uribe was accused of buying the luxury car for Nadine Menendez after her previous car was destroyed when she struck and killed a man crossing the street. She did not face criminal charges in connection with that crash.

Menendez is also accused of helping another New Jersey business associate get a lucrative deal with the government of Egypt. Prosecutors allege that in exchange for bribes, Menendez did things that benefited Egypt, including ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators encouraging them to lift a hold on $300 million in aid.

Menendez also has been charged with using his international clout to help a friend get a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund, including by taking actions favorable to Qatar’s government.

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