George Santos, a Republican congressman whose numerous falsifications led to both a scandal and nationwide ridicule, has been indicted on multiple financial crime charges, according to court documents made public on Wednesday.
These charges include defrauding his contributors and falsely claiming unemployment benefits.
Santos turned himself in to Federal Authorities
Santos, aged 34, turned himself in to federal authorities in the morning and is anticipated to be in a federal court in Central Islip, Long Island, on Wednesday afternoon.
Santos, who declared his re-election campaign last month, did not respond to a request for comment via text. His legal representative also stayed silent.
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Santos allegedly misled campaign donors and committed fraud
Santos allegedly misled his campaign donors, misappropriating their contributions for personal use and committing fraud against the state of New York.
Furthermore, he is also accused of providing false information concerning his earnings and other financial assets to the House Committee on Ethics.
Santos is charged with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of public funds theft, and two counts of providing false information to the House of Representatives on financial documents.
Wire fraud could result in 20 years in jail
If found guilty, Santos could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years for the most severe charge, which is wire fraud.
If convicted on multiple counts and sentenced to imprisonment, the decision on whether he would serve those sentences concurrently or consecutively would rest with a judge.
While some details in the nearly 20-page indictment — about Santos’ dealings with potential donors and incorrect statements on his ethics disclosures — were previously known, the indictment unveils new allegations about an illegal scheme to secure unemployment benefits.
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Prosecutors allege Santos falsely claimed unemployment
Prosecutors allege that Santos falsely claimed to be unemployed during the summer of 2020 when he applied for benefits from the New York State Department of Labor.
He continued to wrongly assert his unemployment status into the following spring, prosecutors contend and received over $24,000 in benefits funded by the U.S. Treasury
Department as part of social programs implemented by Congress in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the indictment, Santos was ineligible for these benefits as he was employed as a regional director for a Florida investment company during this time. The indictment did not name the firm, but its description matches that of Harbor City Capital.
This company was forced to close in 2021 after the Securities and Exchange Commission labeled it a “classic Ponzi scheme.”
Santos ‘used political contributions’ for himself
In a press release, Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney, stated, “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.”
The charges against Santos caused a rift among Republicans in Capitol Hill. House GOP leadership signified they would not take immediate action against the lawmaker, while several New York Republicans insisted it was time for him to resign from Congress.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) pointed out that Santos previously resigned from his committee assignments amidst multiple controversies.
Still, he did not directly answer a reporter’s question about whether Santos should step down. Conversely, Rep. Marcus Molinaro (R-NY) suggested that Santos resign.
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He stated, “Perhaps he will resign soon. Either way — and anyway — there’s a clock counting down, and trust and justice will come to George Santos.”
Federal prosecutors in New York allege misconduct by Santos that far surpasses the lies he told voters in a district stretching from parts of Long Island to Queens.
The indictment alleges that Santos misused a substantial amount of funds raised for his 2022 congressional race for personal purposes, such as buying designer clothes, paying off debts, and distributing money to associates.
He is accused of soliciting funds to a company he falsely represented as a social welfare organization and a super PAC supporting his federal office bid.