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George Santos: McCarthy changes tune to say he will not back Santos re-election bid after arrest

Freshman representative arrested and charged with wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to the House of Representatives

Gustaf Kilander,Joe Sommerlad
Friday 12 May 2023 14:47 BST
George Santos pleads not guilty to 13 charges, including wire fraud and theft

George Santos, the New York Republican congressman who rose to prominence for a string of exaggerations, lies, and irregularities related to his personal background and campaign finances, has pleaded not guilty after being hit with a series of federal charges.

He told the press after exiting a Long Island courthouse on Wednesday that the probe amounted to a “witch hunt” and that he is planning to run for re-election.

Mr Santos surrendered to the authorities and was taken into custody earlier in the day before being released on a $500,000 bond ahead of his next court appearance on 30 June.

He has been charged with 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.

In the 13-count indictment, unsealed on Wednesday morning, federal prosecutors accused Mr Santos of lying on financial disclosure forms he filed to the House when he became a candidate, first by overstating his income from one job and failing to disclose income from another, and second by lying about his earnings from his company, the Devolder Organization.

Prosecutors also allege that Mr Santos fraudulently used donations to his political campaign for his own benefit, spending “thousands of dollars of the solicited funds on personal expenses, including luxury designer clothing and credit card payments.”

The indictment alleges that Mr Santos’ fraud began before his successful run for Congress, accusing him of running an unemployment insurance fraud scheme in which he applied for government assistance in New York while still employed by a Florida-based investment firm.

“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” Breon Peace, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

Utah GOP Senator Mitt Romney led the calls for him to go, saying: “He has demonstrated by his untruthfulness that he should not be in the United States Congress – perhaps should not even be on the public streets.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has now said he will not back Mr Santos’s proposed re-election bid.


A ‘first generation American’

Given his prodigious propensity for telling fibs, basic details of Mr Santos’ personal history, such as his real name, marital status, and precisely where he was born merit a healthy dose of skepticism.

According to his congressional website, Mr Santos is a “first generation American” born in Jackson Heights, Queens, in July 1988. His parents were both Brazilian immigrants – Fátima Devolder, who worked as a housekeeper, and Gercino Antônio dos Santos Jr, a house painter. He has a younger sister, Tiffany Lee Devolder Santos.

Former co-workers who worked with Mr Santos at Dish Network in College Point in 2011 and 2012 told Patch that he used to tell them he was born in Brazil. Then, he was known as Anthony Devolder or George Devolder.

His true birthplace is significant because the Constitution requires members of Congress to have been US citizens for seven years before election. Mr Santos has claimed in interviews that he is a dual citizen of Brazil and the United States.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 16:30

Attended the Mamie Fay School primary school in Astoria

Mr Santos attended the Mamie Fay School primary school in Astoria and Woodside Intermediate School 125 in Sunnyside, Queens, former classmates have said.

Tiffany Bogosian told the Washington Post that even at a young age, Mr Santos would fabricate parts of his biography. She put this down to his impoverished background, and said he had still been learning English while at junior high and was bullied during his time there.

From 2008 to 2011, Mr Santos lived in Brazil where his mother was living at the time.

In 2008, Mr Santos was accused by Brazilian authorities of using a stolen checkbook and fake name at a clothing shop outside Rio de Janeiro.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 17:00

‘Sue me’

While living in Brazil, Mr Santos also reportedly performed as a drag queen named Kitara Ravache as a young man.

In January, Brazilian drag artist Eula Rochard posted photos to social media herself with a person wearing a red dress, bright red lipstick and dangling chandelier earrings who she identified as Mr Santos.

Journalist Joâo Fragah also said he had interviewed Mr Santos in costume.

A Politico investigation later found that a user on Wikipedia named Anthony Devolder claimed to have participated in drag shows in Brazil as a teenager.

Mr Santos issued a furious denial of the claims on social media, at a time when his Republican Party was vilifying and seeking to ban drag queens from performing in some states.

“The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life while I am working to deliver results.”

In statements to media the next day, Mr Santos appeared to admit he had, in fact, dressed in drag.

“I was young and I had fun at a festival. Sue me for having a life,” he said.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 17:30

Moved back to New York in 2011

He moved back to New York in 2011, working as a bilingual customer services representative at a call centre for Dish Network, a satellite TV firm, in Queens, where he would have earned about $15 an hour.

Former colleagues told The Times that he was an “ambitious man with fine tastes”, and used to boast about owning property in Brazil, Nantucket and New York. In reality, he was sharing a small rented apartment with his mother and sister in Queens.

He claimed to his friends to be a business school graduate of NYU. In separate interviews, he said he had graduated from Baruch College in 2010, where he was a star volleyball player. All of which was later proven to be false when both denied having any record of Mr Santos attending.

He further boated on an archived version of his 2020 congressional website, that he attended the elite private school Horace Mann in New York, but failed to graduate due to financial difficulties.

Mr Santos would later claim in a campaign biography that it was around this time that he began rising through the ranks at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs as part of a successful career on Wall Street, where he claimed to have managed more than $80m. Neither bank had any record of him being employed there.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 18:00

‘I know I screwed up, but I want to pay'

Citing court documents, the New York Times reported that Mr Santos told police in 2010 that he and his mother had stolen a chequebook from a man that she used to work for, and used it to make $1,300 in illegal purchases of clothes and shoes.

He reportedly admitted the illicit activity in a post on a Brazilian social media site in 2011, saying “I know I screwed up, but I want to pay”, The Times reported.

The criminal case ground to a halt in 2011 after Mr Santos could not be located by Brazilian authorities, as he had returned to the US.

He later denied that he was a criminal “in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world” in an interview with the New York Post.

In March, Mr Santos admitted the crime and agreed to pay the victim back as part of a non-prosecution agreement with Brazilian prosecutors, CNN reported.

On the campaign trail, Mr Santos repeatedly claimed that he is of Jewish descent and that his grandparents were European Jews who fled Hitler.

Jewish cultural groups and online sleuths later unearthed records showing his grandparents were born in Brazil.

Mr Santos would later tell the New York Post that he had said he was “Jew-ish”.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 18:30

California Democrat calls for House vote on expelling Santos

Gustaf Kilander11 May 2023 19:00

Unidentified wife filed for divorce in 2019

In February, the non-profit Reclaim the Records obtained court records showing he married a Brazilian woman in 2012. His former wife, who has not been identified, filed for divorce in 2019.

He has since said he is married to a Brazilian man, who he identified by the first name of Matt. He reportedly told the Brazilian publication Piaui in November 2020 that his husband’s name is Matheus Gerard.

Sometime in 2016, he moved to Florida where he worked for HotelsPro, a global hospitality marketplace and changed his driver’s licence to a Florida address.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 19:30

VIDEO: Rep. Santos indicted on federal charges

Rep. Santos indicted on federal charges
Gustaf Kilander11 May 2023 20:00

Former New York State Senator announces campaign to ‘defeat Santos'

Gustaf Kilander11 May 2023 20:30

Early political career

Mr Santos’ murky and ever-changing biography makes it difficult to parse fact from fiction during his early forays into politics.

In 2018, he began volunteering for the campaign of Republican Vickie Paladino, who was running for state Senate. He reportedly boasted of his ties to Wall Street donors who could contribute but did little actual work.

The next year, he reportedly made his first attempt to get elected to Congress but failed to secure enough signatures to get on the Queens County Republican Committee.

He joined United for Trump, a small New York group of Republican supporters of the then-president, and launched a first bid for Congress in November 2019.

That month he launched his campaign for the United States House of Representatives in New York’s 3rd Congressional District in 2020 against Democratic incumbent Thomas Suozzi.

No other candidates put their names forward. When pressed by reporters about why he lived out of the district, he claimed to reside at an address that turned out to be his treasurer’s.

He lost the general election by about 46,000 votes, but still exceeded Republican expectations for the strongly Democratic district. He refused to concede the election, echoing Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 21:00

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