George Santos arrested on charges including fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds

Santos could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published May 10, 2023 11:04AM (EDT)

George Santos (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
George Santos (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Serial liar Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. is in custody after turning himself in to authorities at the federal courthouse in Long Island on Wednesday, The New York Times reports.

The first-term congressman was charged with seven counts of wire fraud, one count of theft of public funds, three counts of money laundering and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives, the latter of which is related to two financial disclosure forms he filled out as a candidate.

The first lie to Congress, according to the indictment, occurred in 2020, when Santos allegedly overstated his income from one job while failing to report his salary from another. The second stems from Santos' second campaign for office in 2022, when prosecutors say he lied about earning $750,000 in salary and between $1 million and $5 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization. 

The indictment, which was sealed on Monday, further outlines the other two schemes Santos was charged with: a fraudulent solicitation scheme and an unemployment insurance fraud scheme. In the former, prosecutors accuse Santos, alongside a Queens-based political consultant, of convincing donors to give money to an LLC he headed and then using the money to pay for personal expenses. In the latter, they say Santos applied for New York government assistance in June 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic despite being employed by a Florida-based firm and bringing in $120,000 annually. 

If convicted of the charges, the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York told The Times, Santos could face up to 20 years in prison on the top count. 

Santos has denied the more serious allegations against him, though he has admitted to making misleading statements about his education, financial status and work history, according to CNN

Amidst the controversy, several Democrats and some New York Republicans have called for the freshman congressman's resignation over the allegations, and those who haven't have expressed their frustrations with the situation.

On Tuesday House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that while Santos' position is safe for now, a conviction could lead to his ouster. 

"Just like we had before with Jeff Fortenberry, he had the same ability, I removed him from committees, but he was found guilty and then I told him he needed to resign. That is my policies and principles on this," he said.

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., took a stronger stance on Santos' potential resignation in a statement to Axios.

"We are waiting to see the charges, but we all knew this was where things were heading," she said. "The sooner he leaves, the sooner we can win the seat with someone who isn't a liar."

Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y., doubled down on the calls for his resignation, implying that the controversy is detracting from more pertinent issues currently on the table for Congress.

"You have the president calling into question the very Constitution ... leadership trying to negotiate during both a debt and a budget crisis, a border crisis. And here we are, yet again, talking about somebody who just shouldn't be a member of Congress," he said, adding, "The day we no longer have to discuss George Santos as a member of Congress will be a good day for America."

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Attorney George Conway told MSNBC on Wednesday morning that Santos' falsehoods coming back to bite him was inevitable, according to Raw Story

"My guess is that he's known he's been under investigation for a while, at least since all the information started coming out about him," Conway said during the segment. "There's just no way he hasn't had to respond to subpoenas of his campaign finance information and so on and so forth. There's so much to choose from here. We saw the disclosures where it was charging the cash maximum of $199.99 or something like that, charging that amount in cash for payments to a restaurant, a single restaurant, every meal cost $199.99 — that's clearly fraudulent."

"You have the money you don't know where the money came from," he added. "You have the story about him ripping off the fund for the poor, sick dog — so much to choose from. It'll be interesting to see what the feds have on him. But there's going to be something when you lie that much. You're going to lie on a piece of paper that actually matters for something or lie about something involving money, and that's going to get you into state or federal trouble, and for some people it takes longer — like our friend in Florida — but some people really get there faster, and I guess that's Mr. Santos."

Santos is also under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for potentially failing to properly fill out financial disclosure forms, violating federal conflict of interest laws or engaging in other illegal activity while on the campaign trail. He faces a second criminal case in Brazil for check fraud in 2008, which he confessed to in 2010 but escaped the legal ramifications of when police and prosecutors were unable to locate him following his move back to the U.S.

He is scheduled to be brought before federal judges for his latest indictment at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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