Rep. George Santos is in federal custody after being indicted on 13 charges of fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements.
The congressman surrendered Wednesday at the Alfonse M. D’Amato courthouse in Central Islip, New York.
Santos has been indicted on 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 by a federal grand jury in Central Islip on Tuesday but was under seal until Wednesday.
According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Rep. Santos allegedly received unemployment benefits while employed and running for Congress. He is also accused of using campaign contributions to pay off personal debts and purchase designer clothing.
“At the height of the pandemic in 2020, George Santos allegedly applied for and received unemployment benefits while he was employed and running for Congress,” stated District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly. “As charged in the indictment, the defendant’s alleged behavior continued during his second run for Congress when he pocketed campaign contributions and used that money to pay down personal debts and buy designer clothing. This indictment is the result of a lengthy collaboration between law enforcement agencies, and I thank our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their dedication to rooting out public corruption.”
The department claims that beginning in September 2022, Santos was operating a limited liability company that he used to defraud prospective political supporters. He also hired an unnamed “Queens-based political consultant” to speak to donors on his behalf.
“Santos allegedly directed Person #1 to falsely tell donors that, among other things, their money would be used to help elect Santos to the House, including by purchasing television advertisements,” the press release said. “In reliance on these false statements, two donors (Contributor #1 and Contributor #2) each transferred $25,000 to Company #1’s bank account, which Santos controlled.”
After receiving the money, the department says it was transferred to Santos’ bank accounts.
The indictment additionally alleges that Santos “mislead the House of Representatives and the public about his financial condition in connection with each of his two Congressional campaigns.”
The Justice Department says that “in May 2020, in connection with his first campaign for election to the House, Santos filed two House Disclosures in which he allegedly falsely certified that, during the reporting period, his only earned income consisted of salary, commission, and bonuses totaling $55,000 from another company (Company #2), and that the only compensation exceeding $5,000 he received from a single source was an unspecified commission bonus from Company #2. In actuality, Santos allegedly overstated the income he received from Company #2 and altogether failed to disclose the salary he received from Investment Firm #1.”
United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said that Santos relied on “repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself.”
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” said Peace. “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.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement, “the FBI remains committed to holding all equally accountable under the law. As we allege, Congressman Santos committed federal crimes, and he will now be forced to face the consequences of his actions. I would like to commend the diligent efforts of the investigative and prosecutorial teams in this matter.”
Santos faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges.
Timcast News has reached out to Santos’ office for comment. We will update this story if one is provided.