The defendants in the corruption case involving U.S. Senator Robert Menendez include a former New Jersey insurance broker who was convicted of premium fraud in 2011 and lost his insurance license.
Jose Uribe allegedly got involved with Menendez in his attempts to clear an agency employee and business associate who were suspected of involvement in his insurance fraud scheme.
Senator Menendez and his wife, Nadine, are charged with accepting bribes in the form of cash, gold bars, furnishings and a luxury car in exchange for the senator’s alleged favors that included sharing sensitive information and taking other actions to benefit the government of Egypt and pressuring government officials to aid three New Jersey businessmen including Uribe.
Menendez is accused of disrupting a criminal insurance fraud investigation related to Uribe undertaken by the New Jersey attorney general. In the other cases, the charges are for allegedly improperly pressuring a U.S. Department of Agriculture official to protect a certification monopoly for food experts to Egypt held by businessman Wael Hana and recommending for nomination for U.S. attorney a person Menendez believed he could influence concerning a federal criminal prosecution by the U.S. attorney against the founder of a New Jersey bank, Fred Daibes.
Met in 2018
Hana, a friend of Nadine Menendez, introduced Uribe to Senator Menendez in 2018. According to the indictment, the defendant Uribe now works in the trucking industry after previously owning his own insurance agency, Inter America Insurance Agency, LLC.
Uribe allegedly got caught up with the Menendezes while trying to limit the damage from his insurance fraud case.
In December 2011, Uribe pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception and was sentenced to three years of probation by a New Jersey judge. According to the New Jersey attorney general, the former insurance producer for the now defunct Inter America Insurance Agency, LLC, admitted that between May 30, 2003 and Feb. 22, 2010, he obtained $76,819 in insurance premiums from seven clients by creating the false impression that he was remitting the monies to insurance carriers to secure commercial automobile insurance. In reality, he did not remit the premium payments to the insurance carriers.
The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance revoked the insurance producer licenses of Uribe and his company and ordered him to pay $92,500 in fines.
In the Menendez affair, Uribe is accused of providing Nadine Menendez with a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for Senator Menendez intervening with the state attorney general’s office on behalf of a business associate and an employee. The Uribe associate had been charged with insurance fraud relating to a trucking company the insurance for which was brokered by the Uribe’s agency. The insurance broker employee, whom Uribe referred to as a relative, was being investigated for allegedly submitting the insurance applications at issue in the criminal case.
According to the indictment, Uribe wrote to Hana in April 2018 that he wanted a deal to “kill and stop all investigation.”
According to prosecutors, Senator Menendez agreed to attempt to intervene in the cases in exchange for the Mercedes. Uribe provided the $15,000 down payment for the car and arranged for the monthly payments of the $60,000 balance to be paid.
Prosecutors allege Menendez contacted a senior prosecutor in the New Jersey attorney general’s office “in an attempt, through advice and pressure,” to “resolve these matters favorably.”
According to the indictment, the official in the attorney general’s office tried to “avoid any potential inappropriate influence” in the case by not sharing with the prosecution team that Menendez had contacted him about the matter, and he did not intervene in the matter.
Uribe’s associate was able to resolve his criminal prosecution with a plea agreement with no jail time. This resolution was more favorable than the prosecutors’ initial plea offer earlier in the case, according to the indictment.
About six months later, Senator Menendez attempted to intervene in the investigation of the employee who was Uribe’s relative. In late October, the Menendezes, Uribe and the relative met for a celebratory dinner, prosecutors claim, citing a photo they obtained apparently showing the three toasting with glasses of champagne.
In June 2022, federal agents executed search warrants on the New Jersey home and the safe deposit boxes of the Menendezes. Agents found “certain of the fruits” of the alleged corrupt bribery agreements with Hana, Uribe and Daibes. These “fruits” found in the home included $480,000 in cash— much of it in envelopes, clothing, closets, and a safe— plus $100,000 worth of gold bars, a $75,000 Mercedes-Benz C-300 convertible, and home furnishings, according to prosecutors, who also said they found more than $70,000 in Nadine Menendez’s safe deposit box.
Senator Menendez has denied wrongdoing and said he believes that “when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator.” He said the money found in his home was from his personal savings, not from bribes.
He has rejected calls by fellow Democrats and others to resign his seat. He has stepped down as required as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and James Smith, assistant director in the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced the indictment on September 22.
Photo: U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., speaks at a a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in Brick Township, N.J. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)
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