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New Jersey businessman pleads guilty and agrees to cooperate in Sen. Bob Menendez's corruption case

FILE - Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., waits to speak during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee oversight hearing, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Washington. A New Jersey businessman has pleaded guilty to trying to bribe U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. Jose Uribe entered the plea in Manhattan federal court on Friday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A New Jersey businessman pleaded guilty Friday to trying to bribe U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, agreeing to a deal with prosecutors that calls for him to testify in the corruption case against the powerful Democrat and his wife.

Jose Uribe, of Clifton, New Jersey, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court to seven charges, including conspiracy to commit bribery from 2018 to 2023, honest services wire fraud, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. Prosecutors allege that he gave the Menendez's wife a Mercedes-Benz.

According to a plea agreement, Uribe could face up to 95 years in prison, though he could win leniency by cooperating and testifying against the other defendants, which he's agreed to do. He also agreed to forfeit $246,000, representing proceeds traceable to his crimes.

Uribe was among three businessmen charged in the corruption case against Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, which was revealed last fall. Authorities say the couple accepted bribes of cash, gold bars and the luxury car in exchange for his help and influence over foreign affairs.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Uribe entered the plea before Judge Sidney H. Stein on Friday during a proceeding that the media was not told about in time for reporters to attend. He remains free on a $1 million bond, which was set when he was arrested. His plea deal, dated Thursday, was signed by him on Friday.

Uribe had been charged with providing Nadine Menendez with a Mercedes-Benz convertible after the senator called a government official about another case involving an associate of Uribe.

Uribe's attorney, Daniel Fetterman, declined to comment.

Menendez, his wife and the two other New Jersey businessmen are scheduled to go on trial in May.

Federal prosecutors allege that Menendez, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, used his position to take actions that benefited foreign governments in exchange for bribes paid by associates in New Jersey.

An indictment contends that Menendez and his wife took gold bars and cash from a real estate developer, and that the senator used his clout to get that businessman a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund.

Menendez is also accused of helping another New Jersey business associate get a lucrative deal with the government of Egypt. Prosecutors allege that in exchange for bribes, Menendez did things that benefited Egypt, including ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators encouraging them to lift a hold on $300 million in aid.

Menendez also has been charged with using his international clout to help a friend get a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund, including by taking actions favorable to Qatar's government.

Uribe was accused of buying a luxury car for Nadine Menendez after her previous car was destroyed when she struck and killed a man crossing the street. She did not face criminal charges in connection with that crash.

The indictment says the senator helped Uribe by trying to persuade prosecutors to go easy on one of his business associates who was the subject of a criminal investigation.

Attorneys for Menendez and his wife did not immediately comment.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

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