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George Santos was ‘mastermind of credit card skimming scam’, man convicted of offence tells FBI

Convicted scammer Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha reportedly made claims against Santos in a declaration to the FBI

Abe Asher
Friday 10 March 2023 21:00 GMT
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A man convicted of a credit card skimming fraud and deported to Brazil has reportedly told federal authorities that Rep George Santos of New York 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. The outlet reported that the letter was sent by express mail and email 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 directed the scheme in Seattle in 2017 wherein they would clone cards and siphon money from the linked accounts.

“Santos taught me how to skim card information and how to clone cards. 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.

“We used a computer to be able to download the information on the pieces,” Trelha wrote in his declaration. “We also used an external hard drive to save the filming, because the skimmer took the information from the card, and the camera took the password.”

“It didn’t work out so well, because I was arrested,” he wrote.

Responding to the allegations on Capitol Hill on Friday, Mr Santos told reporters that he was “innocent”.

He added that he “never did anything of criminal activity, and I have no mastermind event”.

“I cooperated with Secret Service, FBI, everybody that asked for my help. Got information for them. Got everybody arrested and deported,” Mr Santos said, according to CNN.

He rejected that he and Trelha were roommates and said he only met him “a couple of times in my life”.

A recording obtained by the network shows that Mr Santos appeared in court in 2017 at the bail hearing of Trelha, calling him a “family friend”. At that same hearing, Mr Santos falsely told the judge he worked at Goldman Sachs.

Trelha said he met Mr Santos, whose full name is George Anthony Devolder Santos and went by Anthony Devolder at various points, in a Facebook group for Brazilians living in Orlando in 2016.

Mr Santos’ congressional office did not return multiple requests for comment from The Independent.

Trelha’s claims, while widely reported by news outlets, have not been substantiated in any capacity by US officials. The alleged recipients of the letter have made no public comment on its existence or content.

Mr Santos was previously linked to Trelha last month when CBS News reported that the congressman had been questioned by the Secret Service in connection with Trelha’s case.

The outlet said that following his arrest in the scheme, Trelha allowed detectives to search his rental car. A police report showed they found an empty FedEx package with a sender address in Winter Park, Florida, that matched one of Mr Santos’ former residences, CBS News reported.

A law enforcement search confirmed to the outlet that Mr Santos was interviewed in that investigation, which is still ongoing, but it was unclear if he was ever considered a person of interest or a suspect.

Politico also reported last month that Mr Santos told a friend of his that he served as an informant in the case. He has never been charged in any capacity.

There are no shortage of legal and ethical questions swirling around Mr Santos, a first-term Republican who represents a Long Island-based district in the US House.

Mr Santos is currently the subject of a House Ethnic panel investigation relating to his Congressional campaign as well as state and federal investigations for various financial crimes. He is also the subject of an investigation in Brazil and has been accused of serial dishonesty about his biography in the lead-up to his election.

Despite all that, Mr Santos has refused calls to resign and is actively serving in the Republican majority.

Gustaf Kilander contributed to this report

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