New York’s resident drag enthusiast and openly gay congressman, George Santos, has turned himself in to authorities after several federal charges against him were unsealed. On Wednesday, a 13-count indictment was made public in a U.S. District Court in Eastern New York, charging the congressman with several counts of wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives, and one count of theft of public funds. Santos spent his Wednesday being held at the courthouse ahead of his arraignment as authorities elaborated on the seriousness of his charges. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace pledged to bring Santos to justice, saying, “My office and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively root out corruption and self-dealing from our community’s public institutions and hold public officials accountable to the constituents who elected them.” Santos’ political fate remains dubious, as most local party representatives in his district already withdrew their support for him when it was revealed Santos lied about his Jewish ancestry and other qualifications he touted when running his campaign. However, the recent charges against him could be the final nail in the coffin for one of Congress’ most controversial figures.
By Danielle Wallace; May 10, 2023
The federal indictment against Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., was unsealed Wednesday ahead of his first court appearance on federal charges.
A 13-count indictment was made public Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging the congressman 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.
The indictment was returned Tuesday under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip, New York. Santos was arrested Wednesday morning and will be arraigned in the afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. He currently is being held at that federal courthouse.
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “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. He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives. My Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively root out corruption and self-dealing from our community’s public institutions and hold public officials accountable to the constituents who elected them.”
Santos, who also goes by Anthony Devolder, unsuccessfully ran in 2020 to represent New York’s Third Congressional District but was victorious his second time around in 2022. He was sworn in on Jan. 7, 2023, mere days after the New York Times exposed that Santos allegedly fabricated larges swathes of his résumé, including that he had worked for two major Wall Street firms, graduated from Baruch College and was a descendant of a Holocaust survivor. The Times reported Santos was also facing pending fraud charges in his native Brazil.
In January, the local Nassau County GOP demanded Santos resign, namely taking issue with the freshman congressman allegedly lying about his Jewish ancestry, but he refused. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, hanging onto a narrow Republican majority, said Santos would be removed if a House Ethics probe revealed he violated campaign finance laws.
“As a retired NYPD Detective, I am confident the justice system will fully reveal Congressman Santos’ long history of deceit, and I once again call on this serial fraudster to resign from office,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, a fellow Republican freshman congressman whose district borders Santos’, said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
Asked by Fox News on Wednesday about Santos’ indictment, Rep. Marcus Molinaro, R-N.Y., remarked in the corridors of Capitol Hill, “I can’t wait for him to be gone.”
Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., expressed a similar sentiment off-camera.
The DOJ indictment alleges that at the height of the pandemic in 2020, Santos applied for and received unemployment benefits while he was earning an annual salary of $120,000 from a Florida investment firm and running for Congress in New York. He alleged received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits from the New York State Department of Labor.
Santos’ alleged behavior continued during his second run for Congress when he allegedly pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and laundered it into his own bank accounts to pay down personal debts and buy designer clothing. Santos is also accused of lying on House financial disclosures about income and dividends earned through Devolder Organization LLC, based out of Florida, and unemployment benefits.
House GOP leadership used their weekly press conference Wednesday to blast the Biden administration ahead of the expiration of Title 42 later this week, but also responded to questions about Santos. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., noted that Santos no longer is serving on committees, saying that “in America, there is a presumption of innocence, but there are serious charges, and he’s going to have to go through the legal process.”
“As I’ve said from the very beginning on questions on this subject, this legal process is going to play itself out. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a member of Congress from either party has been indicted,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said. “There are a set of rules. And as the Majority Leader stated, he voluntarily had stepped down from his committees. We are committed to making sure that we root out any fraud when it comes to unemployment pandemic assistance. And we’re working to have support from our conference. And it’s good policy, and we urge the Democrats to vote in support of it.”