George Santos caught on tape lying to Seattle judge in 2017 recording

The courtroom recording shows Mr Santos telling a judge he worked at Goldman Sachs even though he never held a job at the investment bank

Andrew Feinberg
Friday 24 February 2023 20:16 GMT
George Santos turns on reporter after she asks him to apologise to voters for lying

New York Congressman and serial fabulist George Santos told multiple lies to a judge in Seattle, Washington, while speaking on behalf of someone he described as a “family friend” who had been arrested for placing “skimming” equipment on automatic teller machines in 2017.

Mr Santos was present in the courtroom of King County Superior Court Judge Sean O’Donnell on 15 May 2017, when a Brazilian national called Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha was being arraigned after an arrest.

After identifying himself by his full name, “George Anthony Devolder Santos,” he was asked what he did for work.

Mr Santos replied: “I am an aspiring politician and I work for Goldman Sachs”.

When Judge O’Donnell asked Mr Santos if he indeed worked for Goldman Sachs “in New York,” the future Republican representative responded in the affirmative, telling the Seattle jurist: “Yup”.

Although Mr Santos did have political aspirations at the time, his statement that he worked for the Empire State-based investment bank was false.

Late last year, a spokesperson for the bank told The New York Times there was no record of Mr Santos ever being employed there in any capacity.

He later admitted to the New York Post that he’d “never worked directly” for Goldman Sachs, but he denied lying and claimed instead that he technically had worked for the bank because a financial firm he was employed at, LinkBridge Investors, had “limited partnerships” with the bank.

The embattled GOP representative has admitted to fabricating much, if not all, of his biography during two campaigns for the Long Island US House seat he now holds, an unsuccessful run against Democrat Tom Suozzi in 2020, and his successful campaign two years later.

But the recording of Mr Santos’ appearance in that Seattle courtroom six years ago, which was obtained and first reported on by Politico, indicates that he was making up large swaths of his personal history out of whole cloth long before his name ever appeared on a ballot.

When he appeared there on behalf of Trelha, who was deported to Brazil in 2018 after pleading guilty to access device fraud charges and serving a seven-month jail sentence, he claimed the defendant was a “family friend”.

But when reached by phone from Brazil, Trelha told Politico he’d met Mr Santos in late 2016 through a Facebook group. Not long after, he said he moved in with Mr Santos, who was living in Winter Park, Florida.

When police arrested him in Seattle several months later after a security camera showed him removing skimming equipment — devices used to copy electronic data from ATM cards — from a downtown Seattle ATM, court documents showed him in possession of a forged Brazilian identification card and ten bank cards which police suspected to contain data that had been harvested from legitimate cards that were passed through the skimming device.

Police records also reportedly showed that an empty FedEx package discovered in Trelha’s rental call had been sent from the Florida apartment he’d moved into with Mr Santos.

The courtroom recording showed Trelha’s public defender, Virginia Branham, telling the judge that he’d twice flown to Seattle to assist his roommate. She also said Mr Santos would arrange for an extended Airbnb for Trelha to stay at if the judge granted him bail.

The future congressman’s appearance may have influenced the judge at least somewhat — he reduced Trelha’s bail to $75,000 from an initial amount of $250,000, but Trelha was not able to post bail and remained in custody.

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