Defendant in Menendez bribery case pleads guilty

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Jose Uribe, one of the three businesspeople charged in the corruption case focused on Sen. Bob Menendez, pleaded guilty Friday to bribery and other charges in a Manhattan federal court.

Uribe was an insurance broker and central player in a yearslong scheme to bribe New Jersey's senior senator with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gold in exchange for favors to enrich themselves and the government of Egypt, according to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.

Uribe and the two other businesspeople, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana, also purchased a new Mercedes-Benz for Menendez's wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, and helped pay her mortgage, according to prosecutors.

"Are you happy?" Uribe allegedly texted Nadine Menendez after purchasing the Mercedes. She responded, "I will never forget this."

Uribe had also been implicated in a New Jersey state-level investigation, in which Menendez allegedly tried to intervene.

Both Menendezes, as well as Daibes and Hana, have pleaded not guilty.

In court Friday, Uribe withdrew his initial plea and pleaded guilty to seven charges, which include conspiracy to commit bribery, tax evasion and wire fraud. He faces a maximum of 95 years in prison on all counts, according to court papers. He also agreed to fully cooperate with investigators.

Lawyers for Menendez did not immediately return a message seeking comment. He has resisted calls to resign from the Senate, but his political fate is all but sealed. He's lost support at home from major figures, including Gov. Phil Murphy and his Senate colleague, Cory Booker.

And the race to succeed him has become one of the premier contests of 2024.

Murphy's wife, Tammy Murphy, is in a heated Democratic primary with Rep. Andy Kim, while a handful of Republicans are battling to become the nominee in November.