New Jersey businessman admits to bribing Sen. Bob Menendez with a Mercedes-Benz

A New Jersey businessman testified on Friday that he bribed Sen. Bob Menendez, telling a jury in the New Jersey Democrat’s bribery trial that he gave the lawmaker’s wife a Mercedes in exchange for his influence.

Jose Uribe, who pleaded guilty in March and is cooperating with prosecutors, was asked on the witness stand whom he bribed. Uribe told the jury that he had bribed Menendez, and conspired with another businessman Wael Hana. Uribe also said that the senator’s wife, Nadine Menendez had accepted the bribes he paid. The senator, his wife and Hana have all pleaded not guilty. A third businessman, Fred Daibes, has also pleaded not guilty.

Jose Uribe leaves federal court, Sept. 27, 2023, in New York. Seth Wenig / AP

Menendez and his wife are charged with accepting “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes — some of it in the form of gold bars — in exchange for official acts from Menendez as senator.

Prosecutors have said that Uribe, who testified he bought a car for Nadine Menendez, sought the senator’s help to keep at bay a criminal probe from the New Jersey state attorney general’s office into his associates. Bob Menendez called then-New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to discuss the matter, according to prosecutors.

Grewal, who now leads enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, testified on Thursday that Menendez’s alleged attempts to discuss a particular ongoing criminal case was “pretty unprecedented in my experience.”

Menendez is also accused of accepting bribes to benefit the Egyptian government.

Next week the truth will come out,” Menendez said as he exited court on Friday.

A spokesperson for Menendez declined to comment on matters related to the trial. An attorney for the senator did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.

Menendez is standing trial with Hana and Daibes. Nadine Menendez’s trial was delayed until at least July following recent treatment for breast cancer.

NBC News previously reported that Menendez may testify that his wife concealed information from him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz had argued before a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates in New York at the start of the trial last month that the New Jersey Democrat abused his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to “put greed first” and referred to the senior senator as both “powerful” and “corrupt.”

Pomerantz had also previewed Uribe’s testimony at the start of the trial, saying Uribe would offer jurors “an inside look” at the scheme.

In the defense’s opening statement, an attorney for Menendez, Ari Weitzman, said that his client had not violated the law.

“There won’t be a single piece of tangible evidence the senator accepted a bribe. There is an innocent explanation for the gold and the cash,” Weitzman said.

Menendez has served in the Senate since 2006. He stepped down as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shortly after he was indicted in September but has resisted calls for his resignation.

Menendez previously faced a federal indictment when he was charged in 2015 with illegally accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor, allegations that he denied. The case ended in a mistrial, with jurors unable to reach a unanimous verdict and prosecutors opting not to pursue a retrial.