Rep. George Santos is charged with embezzling his campaign and lying to Congress about his earnings

Santos surrendered Wednesday and was brought before a federal court on Long Island.

(Andrew Harnik | AP File Photo) Rep. George Santos, RN.Y., exits a Republican Party session of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill on January 25, 2023 in Washington. Santos was arrested on federal criminal charges. The Republican congressman was outraged by revelations that he made up parts of his life story, including lies about being a wealthy Wall Street dealmaker. Santos was arrested on Wednesday.

Central Islip, NY • US Representative George Santos, a New York Republican notorious for fabricating important parts of his life story, has been charged with embezzling campaign funds, lying to Congress about his income and fraudulently obtaining unearned unemployment benefits, prosecutors said Wednesday .

The indictment says Santos tricked supporters into donating to a company under the false pretense that the money would be used to support his campaign. Instead, they say, he used it for personal expenses, including buying designer clothes, paying his credit cards, and paying for his car.

Santos is also accused of lying on congressional disclosure forms about his finances and of applying for and receiving unemployment benefits while employed as a regional director of an investment firm that the government shut down in 2021 amid allegations of a Ponzi scheme.

US Attorney Breon Peace said the indictment “aims to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent activities and brazen misrepresentations.”

“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment allege that Santos relied on repeated dishonesty and deceit to infiltrate the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” Peace said.

Santos surrendered Wednesday and was brought before a Long Island federal court, where he was scheduled to make his first court appearance later in the day on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and false statements to Congress.

The Associated Press said on Tuesday that Santos was unaware of the allegations.

Santos, 34, was elected to Congress last fall after a partially untruthful campaign. He told People he was a wealthy Wall Street dealmaker with a sizeable real estate portfolio who, among other things, was a star volleyball player in college.

In reality, Santos didn’t work for the big financial firms he claimed employed him, didn’t go to college, and faced financial difficulties before running for public office. He claimed he fueled his run largely with self-made fortunes made by brokering expensive toy deals for wealthy clients, but the indictment also alleges those boasts were exaggerated.

In government filings, Santos claimed he loaned more than $750,000 to his campaign and associated political action committees, but it was unclear how he was dealing with years of struggling to pay his rent and multiple evictions , so quickly could have come to this wealth .

In a financial disclosure form, Santos said he makes $750,000 a year from a family business, the Devolder Organization. However, the indictments released on Wednesday allege that Santos did not receive that sum, nor the $1 million and $5 million dividends he said came from the company.

Santos has described the Devolder Organization as a broker for the sale of luxury items such as yachts and airplanes. The company was founded in Florida shortly after Santos quit selling for Harbor City Capital, the company that federal authorities accused of operating an illegal Ponzi scheme.

In November 2021, Santos founded Redstone Strategies, a Florida company that federal prosecutors say he used to entice donors to fund his lifestyle. According to the indictment, Santos asked an employee to solicit donations to the company via email, text message and phone, and gave the person contact information for potential donors.

Emails sent to would-be donors falsely claimed that the company was established “solely” to support Santos’ campaign and that there were no limits on the size of her donation, the indictment said. Santos falsely claimed the money would be spent on television advertising and other campaign expenses, sources said.

Last October, a month before his election, Santos transferred about $74,000 from the company’s treasury to bank accounts he maintained, according to the indictment. He also transferred money to some of his employees, it said.

Many of Santos’ fellow New York Republicans called for his resignation after his fakes were exposed. Some renewed their criticism of him as news of the criminal case spread.

“Listen, George Santos should have resigned in December. George Santos should have resigned in January. George Santos should have resigned yesterday. And maybe today he will step down. But sooner or later, whether he likes it or not, both truth and justice will come his way,” said US Rep. Marc Molinaro, a Republican representing parts of New York state.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, was more cautious, saying, “I think in America you’re innocent until proven guilty.”

Santos has previously faced criminal investigations.

When he was 19, he was prosecuted in Brazil on charges of using stolen checks to buy items in a clothing store. Brazilian authorities said they have reopened the case.

In 2017, Santos was charged with theft in Pennsylvania after authorities said he used thousands of dollars in fraudulent checks to buy puppies from dog breeders. That case was dismissed after Santos claimed his checkbook was stolen and that someone else took the dogs.

Federal authorities have separately investigated complaints about Santos’ work raising money for a group that allegedly wanted to help neglected and abused pets. A New Jersey veteran accused Santos of not paying the $3,000 he raised to help his dog with a necessary operation.


Farnoush Amiri from Washington and Alanna Durkin Richer from Boston contributed to this report.

Justin Scaccy

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