FBI agent testifies at Menendez trial about texts that allegedly show how senator’s wife got a Mercedes

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s federal corruption trial continued Wednesday with an FBI special agent reading text messages from a New Jersey businessman who is alleged to have made payments on a Mercedes-Benz convertible for the senator’s wife.

FBI special agent Rachel Graves combed through countless text messages and documents from 2018 and 2019 detailing Jose Uribe’s involvement in the bribery scheme. Uribe was indicted alongside Menendez but struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors earlier this year. Under the terms of the deal, he pleaded guilty to seven counts and agreed to testify in the government’s case.

Bob and Nadine Menendez, along with New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, are accused of engaging in a bribery scheme and acting as foreign agents for the Egyptian government. All four have pleaded not guilty. Nadine Menendez will be tried separately this summer.

Prosecutor Paul Michael Monteleoni spent Wednesday morning in federal court in New York unraveling the complex web of communication that allegedly led to Nadine Menendez’s ownership of a Mercedes-Benz C300 convertible car.

Prosecutors allege that Uribe made payments for the car in exchange for the senator’s help in influencing New Jersey state criminal prosecutions of two Uribe associates. One of them, Elvis Parra, was charged with insurance fraud in New Jersey.

Evidence showed Uribe frequently texted and called Hana and Nadine Menendez, who prosecutors say was the intermediary for communications to the senator.

In April 2018, Uribe texted Hana that “the deal is to kill and stop all investigation I am talking to Andy and he is falling asleep,” referring to the investigation into Parra and to Andy Aslanian, a New Jersey attorney and associate of Nadine Menendez who was present at meetings with the senator, Hana and Egyptian officials.

By October 2018, however, Uribe appeared to have grown worried over his involvement, texting Hana, “I am f**ked man” and “the whole thing is going bad. I have no face to talk to my family.”

On October 13, 2018, Uribe texted Hana, “Morning sir, please make sure your friend knows about this, just as a last favor.” Prosecutors allege that the “friend” in question was a reference to either Bob or Nadine Menendez. “I will,” Hana replied.

The texts discussing Parra continued through 2019. In January, Nadine, who was Menendez’s girlfriend at the time, asked Hana, “I need to know what the charges are.” Hana replied, “the matter only involves four counts” and is “a relatively small indictment.” A few minutes later, Nadine called the senator.

Texts from March 2019 revealed further worries for Uribe. On March 5, he texted Hana, “Can’t even sleep.” A week later, he told an associate after an 18-minute call with Nadine that “They are saying everything is done.” Uribe texted Nadine days later, “I am trusting you.”

Meanwhile, in February 2019, Hana asked Daibes by text if he could “please help … with car.” A day later, Nadine texted Hana, “all is great I am so excited to get a car next week.”

Prosecutors have alleged that Nadine Menendez needed a new car, apparently after hitting and killing a jaywalker in Bogota, New Jersey, in December 2018. A police report was filed but she faced no charges.

On March 31, 2019, Nadine texted the senator photos of two different Mercedes-Benz cars and asked which he preferred. Menendez replied, “like them both whatever you prefer.”

But Nadine soon grew upset with Hana because she said he’d left for Egypt for a week and she hadn’t obtained a car, according to texts. In a March 31 text, she told Uribe, “I just found out Wael left for Egypt yesterday. I am very hurt and disappointed by him but I should not be surprised.”

Uribe texted her back, “I was hoping to meet with you … I am worried but I have to face whatever comes my way.”

The two then had a 22-minute phone call and a little over an hour later, Nadine texted Menendez that Uribe had made a call to “make the arrangements for my car.”

On April 5, 2019, Nadine texted the senator, “Congratulations mon amour de la vie we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes.”

The federal indictment alleges that Nadine Menendez obtained $15,000 in cash from Uribe in a parking lot the day before she picked the vehicle up and put $15,000 as a down payment. Uribe is alleged to have then hidden his monthly financing payments for the vehicle.

Later, following an FBI raid on the Menendez home, Nadine would write Uribe a $21,000 check, which prosecutors say was an effort at cleanup and to make the gift look like a loan.

Uribe is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14.

CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.

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