WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors have charged Republican Rep. George Santos With fraud, money laundering and other crimes in New York, According to a complaint unsealed on Wednesday, a stunning development that after months of testing the new congressman began to uncover his background after the lies.
Santos, 34, was arrested Wednesday morning and remains in custody, the Justice Department said. He is expected to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlen Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York.
The 13-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury Tuesday includes seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. If convicted, Santos faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charge.
“Taken together, Santos is accused of relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “He used political contributions to line his pockets, illegally applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives.”
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Allegations of Fraudulent Political Contribution Schemes
The 20-page indictment details a scheme in which Santos operated a limited liability company to defraud potential supporters of his 2022 congressional campaign. Federal prosecutors allege that through the scheme, Santos induced supporters to donate money to unnamed organizations under the “false pretense that the money would be used to support his candidacy.” He then spent “thousands of thousands of dollars” of the sought-after donation on personal expenses, including luxury designer clothing, credit card and car payments, and personal loan payments.
Santos instructed an unidentified political consultant to tell supporters of his candidacy that the company was a tax-exempt social welfare organization and that the contributions they made would be used to support his Congress. Promotion, including paying for television ads. The two donors transferred $25,000 each to the company’s account, which Santos controlled, and the money was transferred to Santos’ personal bank account, according to court filings.
Prosecutors said the company was not a 501(c)(4) or an independent expenditure committee and that Santos “converted most of these funds for his own personal benefit.”
Alleged unemployment insurance fraud scheme
The indictment also alleges that Santos fraudulently collected extended unemployment benefits from New York State during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though he was employed at the time as a regional director at Harbor City Capital, a Florida-based investment firm, earning about $120,000 a year. He received more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits for which he was not eligible, prosecutors allege.
Allegations of false statements in House Disclosure Reports
Federal prosecutors allege that Santos engaged in efforts to mislead the House and the public about his finances related to two congressional campaigns, an unsuccessful 2020 House bid and his 2022 race.
During his 2020 campaign, Santos filed two House disclosures, in which he “falsely certified” that his only earned income during the relevant reporting period was a salary totaling $55,000 and the only compensation he received was from “unspecified commission bonuses” over $5,000.
But the complaint alleges that Santos overstated his income and failed to disclose his salary from a Florida investment firm.
In September 2022, for his second congressional campaign, prosecutors said Santos exaggerated his income and assets on a House disclosure form and falsely claimed he earned $750,000 from the Devolder Organization, a Florida-based organization of which he was the sole beneficiary, and received between $1 . million and $5 million in dividends from the firm.
He also lied about having a checking account between $100,000 and $250,000 and a savings account between $1 million and $5 million. Prosecutors, however, say the allegations are false.
Questions about Santos’ behavior
The charges against Santos were filed by federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York, one of several investigative agencies examining the GOP lawmaker’s congressional campaign and financial dealings. Local and state authorities, as well as the FBI and Brazilian law enforcement, are also investigating Santos.
The congressman was elected last November to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District and has spent months since then facing questions about his education and professional experience, as well as his finances and campaign spending.
There is Santos has been accused for illegally using funds raised during his 2022 congressional campaign for personal expenses and for submitting false information about the sources of his donations and campaign expenses. A series of payments listed in Santos’ campaign finance filings for exactly $199.99, one cent below the $200 threshold where receipts are required, were also uncovered, raising further questions about his campaign spending.
There was the FBI Santos’ alleged role is being investigated Intended to raise funds for an elderly dying dog through a pet charity, while the Securities and Exchange Commission Check out his work At Harbor City Capital, a financial firm that was shut down in 2021 for allegedly operating as a Ponzi scheme.
Santos was Interrogated by Seattle detectives And US Secret Service 2017 as part of an investigation into a scheme to skim ATM numbers. A Affidavit of agency received Santos claimed he was “responsible” for the credit card fraud plot from a Brazilian man arrested for installing skimmers at a Seattle bank.
Santos’ troubles have followed him to Capitol Hill, where he recused himself from two House committees because of the “ongoing attention” of multiple investigations into his alleged misconduct. House Ethics Committee Open an investigation Santos entered in March, part of which involved whether he engaged in illegal activity regarding his 2022 congressional campaign and failed to accurately disclose information required by House statements.
Santos chasten His resume was “embellished,” but otherwise denied any wrongdoing.
A steady stream of revelations about the New York Republican led to calls for his resignation, including Republicans in the New York delegation. Many reiterated their demand for Santos to resign from his House seat in light of the criminal charges filed against him.
“I can’t wait for him to go,” GOP Rep. of New York. Mark Molinaro told reporters about Santos on Wednesday.
Santos, however, resisted pressure to quit Congress and was announced in April That he will seek a second term in 2024.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also continued to deflect questions about whether he would call for Santos to resign, telling reporters Tuesday that he would do so if Santos is ultimately convicted. Republicans have a slim majority in the House, and McCarthy can only afford four defections to pass his legislative priorities.
“Like every American, you have your day in court,” he told reporters Wednesday after Santos was acquitted, adding that the New York congressman “will have his trial. We’ll find out how the outcome plays out.”
Asked about Santos’ allegations on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said the embattled congressman does not already serve on House committees.
“There’s a legal process, the charges just came out,” Scalise told reporters at a news conference, “There’s a presumption of innocence, but they’re serious charges.”
Scalise and House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Ellis Stefanik emphasized that they want to root out fraud and abuse in all federal programs, including pandemic assistance.
“This legal process is going to play itself out,” Stefanik said. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a Congress member of any party has been indicted.”
Pat Milton and Catherine Watson contributed to this report
Jorge Santos is under investigation
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