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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.


George Santos voting on employment fraud bill – 24 hours after being arrested for employment fraud

Rep George Santos returned to the Capitol on Thursday following his arrest a day earlier for unemployment fraud — just in time to vote on a bill dealing with that exact topic.

It was a perfectly scripted moment to cap off a wild two-day media circus around his indicment in New York on 13 criminal counts. He has pleaded not guilty, and vowed to fight the charges in court.

On Thursday, moments after entering the building, the congressman was bombarded by questions about whether it was right for him to vote on such a bill while he himself was under criminal indictment for an alleged violation of that statute.

What’s more, Mr Santos is co-sponsor of the legislation being introduced, which would strengthen America’s fraud laws by extending the statute of limitations for such investigations and providing more incentives for states to investigate and uncover fraud.

“Well, allegations are not proof, right Rachel?” barked the Republican lawmaker at a journalist as he jogged up a flight of stairs away from gathered reporters.

Read more:

George Santos voting on employment fraud bill – 24 hours after being arrested for it

New York congressman faces calls for his resignation, dwindling support in GOP

John Bowden11 May 2023 21:23

Spoke at Stop the Steal rally

Mr Santos spoke at the Stop the Steal rally at the ellipse in Washington DC on the day of the Capitol riots on January 6, claiming his election had been stolen. A roommate would later claim that Mr Santos had worn his stolen $520 Burberry scarf to the rally.

In 2020, while running for Congress, he began working at Florida investment firm Harbor City Capital, which was later accused in a civil lawsuit by the Security and Exchange Commission of running a $17m Ponzi scheme.

The SEC banned the firm from doing business in Alabama, and alleged it was “out to deceive Alabamians and profit off unsuspecting investors by using dazzling marketing tactics to sell unregistered bonds.”

He has publicly denied any involvement in the alleged fraud.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 21:30

The Devolder Organization

Mr Santos also set up the Devolder Organization, which he was the sole owner of and claimed he managed $80m in assets for the “capital introduction consulting” firm.

Mr Santos hosted the Talking GOP public-access radio show from January to May 2020.

He would schmooze guests, who were mostly figures from the Queens Republican Party.

On Talking GOP, he said that he was Catholic, and that his maternal grandfather had converted from Judaism to Catholicism before the Holocaust. “I believe we are all Jewish, at the end – because Jesus Christ is Jewish.”

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 22:00

Kevin McCarthy flip flops on George Santos and says he won’t support indicted congressman’s re-election bid

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives, has said he will not support New York congressman George Santos’s bid for re-election after the freshman lawmaker was accused of committing a series of financial crimes and charged in a 13-count federal indictment.

Mr Santos, 34, was arrested on Long Island on Wednesday after surrendering to the authorities and pleaded not guilty to all charges, after which he was released on a $500,000 bond and took questions from the press. He declared in true Trumpian fashion that he was the victim of a “witch hunt” and insisted that he still intends to stand for re-election in 2024.

Mr Santos filed the necessary paperwork to run again with the Federal Election Commission back in March, allowing his campaign team to continue fundraising.

This week’s drama came after months of controversy swirling around Mr Santos, whose midterm victory over Democrat Robert Zimmerman was swiftly overshadowed in December by a New York Times investigation that exposed a prolific track record of lying about his past, or, as Mr Santos preferred to put it, “résumé embellishment”.

The man representing the city’s 3rd Congressional District was accused of lying about everything from his educational background and Wall Street work experience to the fate of his grandparents and mother, his past experience as a drag performer in Brazil, his prowess as a volleyball player and even a bizarre plot involving the invention of a fictional animal charity to channel money away from an Iraq War veteran’s dying dog.

Read more:

Kevin McCarthy says he won’t support George Santos’s re-election bid after all

House speaker shifts position on embattled representative after previously standing by him

Joe Sommerlad11 May 2023 22:30

George Santos wildly claims his arrest is linked to his support of jailed Chinese billionaire Miles Guo

George Santos has bizarrely claimed that his arrest on federal charges is linked to his support for the Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Guo.

In a fundraising appeal, Mr Santos tweeted: “I asked questions about #MilesGuo & the DOJ indicts me 5 days later! The fight is real & I’m OVER the target, I need your support to keep me fighting for freedom. #MAGA #TrumpWasRightAboutEverything #StopTheCCP #freeMilesGuo.”

“Chip in today!” he added.

Mr Guo, a self-exiled Chinese businessman and close ally of Steve Bannon, was arrested by US authorities in March on charges for fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors claim he “led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of over $1 billion dollars”.

Mr Guo has received vocal support from Mr Santos, who himself was arrested on 13 federal charges on Wednesday, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements to the House of Representatives.

The New York Republican held a heated press conference after exiting his arraignment at the federal courthouse on Long Island, calling the probe a “witch hunt”.

Read more:

George Santos wildly claims arrest is linked to his support of Chinese billionaire

‘I asked questions about #MilesGuo & the DOJ indicts me 5 days later!’ Santos says in Twitter fundraising appeal after his arrest

Gustaf Kilander11 May 2023 23:00

‘He’s most likely just a fabulist’

Soon after his 2020 election defeat, Mr Santos began raising money for the next congressional race.

New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who is now the third-ranking Republican in the House, was an early supporter, and endorsed him in 2021.

In late 2021, a vulnerability study commissioned with Mr Santos’ approval found alarming revelations, and many of his staffers resigned, according to the Times.

Among other things, it found he had falsely claimed to have been endorsed by Mr Trump, along with many of the lies about his job history and personal wealth that have since been revealed.

Congressional leaders learned of his deceptions by 2022. According to the Times, Dan Conston, the leader of the Kevin McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, tried to circulate the report’s findings to prominent donors.

Mr Santos was then the beneficiary of two pieces of luck, that paved the way for his election to Congress in 2022. Thomas Suozzi, the 3rd District’s incumbent lawmaker, announced he would not seek re-election.

Then during redistricting, a new congressional district map gerrymandered to favour Democrats was thrown out by the New York Supreme Court and replaced with a new map that added a swathe of Republican areas.

Mr Santos again ran unopposed for the Republican nomination, and faced Democrat Robert Zimmerman in the general election, the first House race between two openly gay candidates.

Bevan Hurley11 May 2023 23:30

Santos called ‘bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy’ ahead of election win

An opposition research file on Mr Santos produced by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee found that elements of his biography had been fabricated and required further research, a Times investigation found.

Mr Zimmerman later said he didn’t have sufficient resources for this, and focussed his attention on voter outreach.

The North Shore Leader, a weekly news publication based in the affluent Long Island neighbourhood in the 3rd District, was the only media organisation to report on discrepancies in Mr Santos’ financial disclosure forms.

In September 2022, it reported that Mr Santos’ net wealth had risen from essentially zero, and with an annual salary of $55,000 in 2020, to $11m in assets just two years later.

The news site endorsed Mr Zimmerman, stating that his opponent “is so bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy that we cannot ... he’s most likely just a fabulist – a fake”.

Mr Santos went on to take the district that November by eight points.

Bevan Hurley12 May 2023 00:00

Santos’ lies revealed post-election

A bombshell New York Times report on 19 December revealed to a broader audience for the first time many of Mr Santos’ fabrications and lies about his employment and education history.

A flood of further embellishments soon followed, including the 9/11-related death of his mother, claims he had been a producer on the failed Broadway production of Spider-Man, how he had cheated associates out of clothes and cash, and had stolen $3,000 that had been raised to save a disabled veteran’s pet dog.

A pressure group formed by citizens in his 3rd Congressional District began holding protests outside his campaign office to try to force his expulsion from Congress.

In an interview with Semafor attempting to explain his newfound wealth, he claimed to have made his money by taking a cut from matching sellers of luxury goods like planes and yachts with potential buyers.

Bevan Hurley12 May 2023 00:30

Romney calls Santos a ‘sick puppy'

As Mr Santos’ pile of scandals grew, he threw himself behind Kevin McCarthy’s campaign for Speaker of the House.

Mr McCarthy welcomed the support given his razor-thin majority, and refused to take action on any of the mounting ethical scandals, even as a growing number of New York Republicans called for him to be removed from Congress.

At the State of the Union in February, Mr Santos had an altercation with Mitt Romney after the Utah Senator told him he didn’t belong in Congress and “should be embarrassed.”

“Tell that to the 142,000 who voted for me”, Mr Santos reportedly replied.

Following the speech, Mr Romney called the New York Republican a “sick puppy.”

In March, the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into whether Mr Santos had “engaged in unlawful activity”.

At the time, Mr McCarthy said he would remain a member in good standing in the GOP caucus until a full investigation is complete.

Bevan Hurley12 May 2023 01:00

Credit card scams and unpaid rent

Revelations about Mr Santos’ alleged grifts and schemes continued to emerge.

In February, it was reported that New York City housing court records showed that Tiffany Lee Devolder Santos owed $39,050 in back rent to the landlord.

Mr Santos had reportedly failed to pay rent in the Queens apartment he shared with his sister before being elected to Congress in a state of disrepair.

The next month, a Brazilian man who was deported from the US after being convicted of credit card skimming fraud reportedly told federal authorities that Mr Santos was the mastermind of the scheme.

“I am coming forward today to declare that the person in charge of the crime of credit card fraud when I was arrested was George Santos / Anthony Devolder,” Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha wrote in a declaration obtained by Politico and sent to the FBI, the US Secret Service office in New York, and the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, by Trelha’s attorney Mark Demetropoulos.

Trelha claimed Mr Santos had taught him how to skim card information and clone cards in Seattle in 2017.

“He gave me all the materials and taught me how to put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines,” Trelha wrote in his statement.

Trelha claimed Mr Santos visited him in jail in Seattle after his arrest and threatened him not to reveal his part in the scheme to authorities.

Responding to the allegations at the time, Mr Santos told reporters that he was “innocent”.

In January, Mr Santos also claimed to have been the victim of a mugging and assassination attempt in New York.

Bevan Hurley12 May 2023 01:30

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