Star witness José Uribe tests the senator’s corruption. Bob Menendez

NEW YORK — A New Jersey trucking and insurance executive confirmed Friday that he bribed the senator. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), offering a Mercedes-Benz convertible to the lawmaker’s girlfriend at the time, on the condition that Menendez “stop and kill” all criminal investigations into his company and close associates.

José Uribe, the prosecution’s star witness in Menendez’s Manhattan corruption trial, pleaded guilty this year to bribery conspiracy and other charges. He told the jury he struck a deal with Nadine Arslanian during a phone call in March 2019, before she married the senator.

“Nadine will contact Senator Menendez, use her influence and her power to do everything possible to stop and kill the investigations, so that my family – so that this doesn’t happen to my family, and my family doesn’t get hurt.” , tested Uribe.

“She agreed to the conditions,” he said.

Uribe, who pleaded guilty to various state and federal crimes related to his business ventures, took the stand at the end of the fourth week of the trial. His testimony was eagerly awaited. He is expected to be the prosecution’s only cooperating witness, filling in the gaps of what the Menendezes said in phone calls or over drinks or cigars at dinner.

His testimony will continue Monday and prosecutors have already indicated it will be richly detailed. A 66-page indictment says he handed $15,000 in a parking lot to Arslanian to finance the Mercedes. Phone and bank records show he asked an associate to make at least three monthly car payments and then set up automatic payments that lasted for nearly three years. The amounts show that he paid more than $45,000 for a vehicle valued at nearly $70,000.

In rare remarks to reporters, Menendez lashed out at Uribe after the trial adjourned Friday afternoon.

“Wait for the cross-examination, you will see how we are going to crucify them,” he said.

Former New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal confirmed Thursday that the senator approached him twice in 2019 to talk about an open criminal case, saying it raised questions about the treatment of Hispanic truckers compared to non-Hispanics. Grewal said he immediately interrupted Menendez each time and did not intervene in such instances.

Prosecutors say it was the same question that kept Uribe up at night, a question he was desperate to resolve. Insurance fraud prosecutors were investigating a trucking company owned by close Uribe associate Elvis Parra, and a series of subpoenas and detective inquiries suggested investigators were coming soon at Uribe’s door, he tested.

“Hello. I received a call with good news. Let’s keep the faith,” Uribe said after texting another trucking executive after getting assurances from Arslanian. that investigations would disappear.

The following month, Uribe began financing the convertible.

“Are you happy?” he texted her.

“I will never forget that,” she responded, according to evidence filed at trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz said during her opening statement last month that Sen. tricked Uribe into maintaining car payments for years, giving a misleading account of a September 2019 meeting in which Grewal said he flatly rebuffed him.

“He filed a complaint and asked the attorney general to get personally involved in the matter. It did not work. But Menendez told Uribe that the meeting went well,” she said. “And so Uribe continued to make these monthly payments on the Mercedes.”

Wearing a blue suit without a tie and sometimes using profanity on the witness stand, Uribe also described feeling hopeless and disillusioned after months of waiting for help from a close friend, Wael “Will” Hana, now co-accused in court. trial. Hana had offered to use his access to Menendez to help Uribe foil investigations for $200,000 to $250,000, but Hana did not keep his promises, he said. Uribe then decides to deal directly with Arslanian, whom he already knows.

“I was ready to do everything in my power,” Uribe said. The senator’s girlfriend seemed “distraught, disappointed with most of the men in her life, angry” during their first phone call in March 2019, he added, in part because Hana had not arrived with the car she wanted. So he offered her one instead, he said.

“My conversation with Nadine gave me hope that she was willing to help and make the deal to kill and stop the investigations,” Uribe said.

The Menendezes married in 2020. His trial is scheduled for next month.

At his plea hearing in March, Uribe said that after receiving a subpoena regarding the senator in mid-2022, he met with Nadine Menendez at a hotel “and she asked me what I was going to do.” tell if anyone asked me about the car payment. “Uribe told her he would say he was helping a friend in financial difficulty who would pay him back, he said, and she said that sounded good.

If Bob Menendez, 70, were convicted on all counts, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

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