Former New Jersey attorney general binds senator. Menendez presses criminal case

NEW YORK — New Jersey’s former attorney general was tested Thursday before the senator. During Bob Menendez’s corruption trial, he responded to a call and then a meeting with the lawmaker in 2019, only to learn twice that Menendez wanted to complain about an open criminal case.

Federal prosecutors say a New Jersey businessman was desperate to “kill” the deal, going so far as to finance a Mercedes-Benz convertible for the then-senator’s girlfriend. After being assured that it would disappear.

Gurbir S. Grewal, who was appointed by the governor. Phil Murphy (D) and now director of enforcement for the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission, told the jury that he immediately interrupted Menendez and told him that the defendant’s attorney would have to report his concerns to the prosecutors involved.

“It’s a long-standing norm that elected officials should not talk to prosecutors about pending criminal cases,” he said. He also stated that he did not know about the affair and that he “did not want to know about the affair.” I just wanted to get out of the conversation.

According to Grewal, Menendez expressed concern about how the state attorney general’s insurance fraud unit was treating “Hispanic defendants in the trucking industry compared to non-Hispanic defendants.” But, he added, Menendez did not make an “explicit request.”

Menendez, 70, was indicted on 16 counts, including bribery, extortion, wire fraud, acting as a foreign agent for Egypt and obstruction of justice. He could be disqualified from holding public office and sentenced to decades in prison if convicted on all counts. The senator submitted paperwork this week to seek a fourth term in November as an independent candidate, telling reporters he looked forward to “continuing to prove” his innocence at trial.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York say the lawmaker’s wife, formerly Nadine Arslanian, was his go-between with a trio of businessmen who lavished the couple with expensive gifts, stacks of cash and gold bars. gold in exchange for political favors, starting in 2018. As the two dated and continued after their marriage in 2020.

Nadine Menendez is expected to stand trial on similar charges in July.

Jose Uribe, a trucking and insurance industry executive who organized a 2018 fundraiser for Menendez, pleaded guilty in March to seven counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery, electronic fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 95 years, but prosecutors will likely recommend a much lesser sentence because he is now a cooperating witness expected to testify at Menendez’s trial.

He is due to take the witness stand on Friday. His sentencing is expected next week.

“I agreed with several people, including Nadine Menendez, to provide Nadine with a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for Senator Menendez using his power and influence as a United States Senator to secure a favorable outcome and end the all investigations related to any of my associates,” Uribe said during his plea hearing, according to a transcript. He also wanted Menendez to “stop the possible investigation of another person who I considered to be a member of.” my family “.

According to text and voice messages collected as evidence, Uribe for months pressured Arslanian to have Menendez call off ongoing investigations by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office into a trucking executive who had been indicted on theft charges. and allegations of fraud and on an insurance broker that Uribe considered as proof. be like family.

“The deal is to kill and stop any investigation,” he texted another associate, Wael “Will” Hana, who is one of Menendez’s co-defendants.

Menendez called Grewal in January 2018 and September 2019, according to phone records. The two then met at Menendez’s Newark office in September. Jan. 6, 2019, Grewal’s calendar shows. Menendez’s Senate schedule did not include this meeting.

Grewal said he did not tell his team about Menendez’s move because he wanted to protect them from the “power imbalance” and “doubts” that might arise from airing such concerns. As Grewal recalled Thursday, one of his top deputies attended the meeting in Newark and later commented, “Whoa, that was disgusting.”

Prosecutors say Menendez gave Uribe special favors that his constituents did not have access to. In exchange, they say, Uribe gave Arslanian $15,000 in a parking lot the day before he made a deposit of the same amount for a new Mercedes-Benz convertible in April 2019. A bank account in which Uribe was a co-signer and covered 32 monthly payments for the luxury car, each for about $900, records show. Uribe’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.

“The car is at home,” Menendez texted in late April 2019, attaching a photo.

“Whoopy!!!” replied the senator.

Defense attorney Avi Weitzman told the jury in his opening statement that Arslanian came from a wealthy family so it was not surprising to see her driving home in a Mercedes-Benz. Menendez’s contact with Grewal “had absolutely no effect on these cases,” he said. The lawmaker was simply looking at Hispanic businesspeople when he asked Grewal to look into allegations that they were being unfairly investigated.

“Would you agree that discrimination threatens the very foundations of democracy? Weitzman asked Grewal on Thursday.

During his plea hearing, Uribe told the judge that after receiving a subpoena regarding the senator, he met Nadine Menendez at a hotel “and she asked me what I was going to say if someone asked me about the car payment.

“I told her I would say that a good friend of mine was in a financial situation and I was helping this friend make car payments, and when she was financially stable, she would pay me back,” Uribe said . According to the hearing report. “Nadine saying something like that sounds good.”

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