George Santos accused of swindling $3,000 in donations for disabled veteran’s dying service dog

‘He stopped answering my texts and calls’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 18 January 2023 13:24 GMT
Related: House oversight chair James Comer calls George Santos ‘despicable’ amid scandal

Member of Congress George Santos allegedly took more than $3,000 (£2,445) from a disabled US Navy veteran who was raising money to save his service dog from a life-threatening stomach tumour.

The Long Island representative is facing multiple calls for his resignation after admitting to a plethora of lies on his resume, starting from his high school to college and employment.

The first-time representative also drew ire from Jewish groups for claiming that he was of Jewish descent and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors.

Back in 2016, Richard Osthoff, 47, was fundraising $3,000 for his dog Sapphire's surgery when he was connected to Friends of Pets United, an organisation that was reportedly led at the time by Anthony Devolder.

At the time, Mr Santos was known to go by that name, with a now-viral video showing him introducing himself as Anthony Devolder at a pro-Donald Trump LGBTQ event in 2019.

Mr Osthoff, who was honourably discharged from the Navy in 2002, was introduced to the charity by a veterinary technician and a fundraiser was launched.

But, after it raised $3,000 in donations, Mr Santos allegedly closed the GoFundMe page and disappeared, the Patch reported.

“I only talked to him two or three times on the phone,” Mr Osthoff said.

“He stopped answering my texts and calls.”

Michael Boll, the president of the New Jersey Veterans Network, confirmed the incident, telling the Patch that he attempted to mediate the situation, but Mr Santos had been “totally uncooperative on the phone”.

Mr Santos reportedly insisted that Sapphire be brought to a veterinarian in Queens for treatment.

In August, the vet tech drove Mr Osthoff and his dog to the veterinary practice in New York, where Mr Santos allegedly had “credit” with the practice from regularly using it for his charity.

“It was a tiny little hole in the wall place, but looked legitimate. The vet there said they couldn't operate on the tumour,” Mr Osthoff said.

Shortly after that Mr Santos became elusive, the veteran alleged.

He said he believes that over half of the donations came from people he knew and that November, he texted Mr Santos saying: “I'm starting to feel like I was mined for my family and friends’ donations.”

Later in a call, Mr Santos allegedly argued that because Mr Osthoff “didn't do things my way”, the money from Sapphire's fundraiser was put into the charity for “other dogs”.

Sapphire died on 15 January 2017.

Mr Osthoff said he couldn't afford the dog's euthanasia and cremation as he was out of work for a year due to a broken leg. “I had to panhandle. It was one of the most degrading things I ever had to do,” he said.

The Independent has reached out to the congressman’s office for a comment.

In a statement to Semafor, Mr Santos denied the allegations and claimed he did not know Mr Osthoff.

“Fake. No clue who this is,” he said.

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