On Senator Menendez’s terrace, a businessman says he directly asked for help

José Uribe, the businessman who said he bribed Senator Robert Menendez in exchange for his help in quashing a criminal investigation involving two of his relatives, verified Monday that he had directly requested his help from senator and that Mr. Menendez had said he would “look into the matter.”

Mr. Uribe said this in September. 5, 2019, the day before Mr. Menendez met with the New Jersey Attorney General to discuss the issue. He was invited to the senator’s home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where he and Mr. Menendez sat on a patio, with the senator smoking a cigar.

Mr. Menendez rang a small bell he had on the table, calling out “mon amour” – French for “my love” – and summoning his girlfriend and future wife, Nadine Menendez. Mr. Uribe said she brought him a piece of paper and went back into the house.

The senator asked Mr. Uribe to write down the names of his friends under investigation. Mr. Menendez then took the paper, folded it and placed it in his pants pocket.

Mr. Uribe, who recounted the scene Monday during his second day of testimony at Mr. Menendez’s corruption trial, said he pleaded with the senator. “I begged him to do everything in his power,” Mr. Uribe said, to stop any investigation “that could harm my family.”

Mr. Uribe had repeatedly asked Nadine Menendez that her fiancé intervene on behalf of his friends, finally turning to the senator himself.

“I asked him to help me get peace for me and my family,” Mr. Uribe said in Mr. Menendez’s trial in Manhattan federal court.

But Mr. Uribe also said the men never discussed the thousands of dollars in car payments Mr. Uribe was making for a Mercedes-Benz convertible that he provided to Ms. Méndez.

“I never spoke to Mr. Menendez about paying for the car,” Mr. Uribe said.

Mr. Uribe, who became the main prosecution witness in the M. case during Menendez’s federal corruption trial, said he assumed Mr. Menendez would have known that he was providing financial assistance to Ms. Menendez because she had repeatedly tried to arrange a meeting with Mr. Uribe with the senator, so Mr. Uribe could enlist her help in blocking the state investigation.

“The only reason she’s trying,” Mr. Uribe said, “is because I’m holding up my end of the deal.”

Mr. Menendez, 70, and Ms. Menendez, 57, were both charged with conspiring to take cash, gold, the Mercedes and other bribes. wine collectively worth several hundred thousand dollars in exchange for the senator’s agreement to grant him political favors at home and abroad.

Mr. Uribe, in detailing one of those alleged favors during his testimony Friday, said he was deeply concerned about the investigation into insurance fraud, led by the New Jersey attorney general. He said the investigation threatened to implicate the young woman, and he said he initially raised the issue with a man named Wael Hana, who had long been his and Ms. Menéndez’s friend.

Mr. Hana told Mr. Uribe that in exchange for $200,000 to $250,000, he had “a way to make these things disappear,” Mr. Uribe said.

“He could go see Nadine,” Mr. Uribe said. “Nadine will go see Senator Menendez.”

Mr. Uribe, frustrated by Mr. Hana’s lack of progress, said he eventually called Ms. Menendez directly, offering to buy him the Mercedes if she would intervene with her husband on his behalf.

Mr. Uribe tested this in subsequent meetings with the senator – including at a fundraiser. Uribe said he had ensured that the senator remained in his “good graces” – he did not broach the subject of the alleged deal with Mr. Méndez.

Prosecutors have not yet asked Mr. Uribe about a brief phone call the senator allegedly made to him in October. 29, 2019. After the call ended, Mr. Uribe sent text messages to Ms. Méndez.

“I just got a call and I am a very happy person,” he wrote, adding, “GOD bless you and him forever.”

Mr Menendez, who has steadfastly maintained his innocence since the charges were announced last September, said as he left court on Friday that he was “staying tuned” until Mr Uribe could be cross-examined by his lawyers.

“Wait for the cross and find the truth,” said M.,” Menéndez said.

The senator’s lawyers have adopted a legal strategy of blaming any wrongdoing on Ms. Menendez and attacking Mr. Uribe’s friendship. A lawyer, Avi Weitzman, told the jury in an opening statement last month that Ms. Menendez hid her financial difficulties from her husband and “left him in the dark about what she was asking others to give her.” “.

Of Mr. Uribe, Mr. Weitzman said: “We will have a lot to discuss at the end of the case about him, about his lies and his cheating and his crimes and all the ways he was induced to continue to commit them. »

In his testimony, Mr. Uribe described a phone call with Ms. Menendez in which he said she liked certain aspects of the alleged deal.

Mr. Uribe said that after Ms. Menendez complained that she needed a new car, he promised to buy her one if she was able to “help me close this deal.”

“She accepted the conditions,” Mr. Uribe said tested; prosecutors say Mr. Uribe helped buy him a 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible worth more than $60,000.

Mr. Méndez, Mr. Hana and another co-defendant, Fred Daibes, are on trial together in federal district court. MS. Menendez’s trial was postponed until July by Judge Sidney H. Stein because she is being treated for breast cancer. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Uribe, 57, pleaded guilty in March and is cooperating with the government.

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