Nassau DA’s office to launch probe into Santos’ personal, professional background

Nassau DA’s office to launch probe into Santos’ personal, professional background
Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, left, and Congressman-elect George Santos. (Photos courtesy of both officials)

The Nassau County District Attorney’s office confirmed they will launch a probe into the life of Republican Congressman-elect George Santos.

Anne Donnelly, Nassau’s Republican district attorney, called the falsehoods in Santos’ personal and professional life that were publicized by the New York Times last week “nothing short of stunning” in a statement Wednesday.

“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” Donnelly continued. “No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”

Brendan Brosh, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, confirmed that they will be “looking into the matter.”

State Attorney General Letitia James said her office would review the allegations made against Santos by The Times last week.

Federal prosecutors in New York are also launching an investigation, according to reports.

According to CNN and The New York Times, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York is looking into Santos’ finances. According to the Times, the investigation is said to be in its early stages.

Donnelly’s statement followed Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman condemning Santos for lying about his background, including where he worked and studied.

Blakeman and newly-elected U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Bay Shore) called for the House Ethics Committee to launch an investigation into Santos’ past riddled with discrepancies as outlined by the New York Times last week. Blakeman told Newsday that the congressman-elect’s record has now come into question.

“I think that he’s entitled to a hearing with the [House] Ethics Committee, and that they should do a thorough investigation to see if he violated any laws or any ethics rules,” Blakeman told Newsday. “I think that we have to let the process unfold, which I think will happen fairly swiftly.”

“New Yorkers deserve the truth and House Republicans deserve an opportunity to govern without this distraction,” LaLota, who will represent the state’s 1st Congressional District, told Newsday.

Santos admitted to the New York Post that he “embellished” parts of his resume but still intended to serve in Congress. 

“This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success,” Santos told the Post. “I will be effective. I will be good.”

Nassau County Republican Committee Chairman Joe Cairo said in a statement: “While I have indicated that the congressman-elect deserves a reasonable amount of time to respond to the media, voters deserve a sincere accounting from Mr. Santos.”  Cairo has since said that Santos should still serve in the House.

“Congressman-elect Santos has broken the public trust by making serious misstatements regarding his background, experience and education, among other issues,” the Republican leader said. “He has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of voters and everyone who he represents in Congress.”

Santos was accused by The Times of lying about earning degrees from NYU and Baruch College as well as working for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Neither college could confirm his enrollment to multiple media outlets while neither company could confirm his employment.

Santos, in a previously published biography on his campaign website, described himself as “an associate asset manager” in Citigroup, but a company spokesman told The Times that they could not confirm his employment. The spokesman also said Citi sold off its asset management operations in 2005 and was unfamiliar with Santos’ job title listed on his biography.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman also failed to confirm Santos’ employment, while the Republican did not list a specific time frame for his time at the companies in biographies.

The congressman-elect told the Post that he never graduated from “any institution of higher learning” and that he “never worked directly” for either organization but that a company called Link Bridge, where he served as vice president, worked with both companies.

The openly gay congressman-elect who previously said he “never had an issue” with his sexual identity during the past 10 years, divorced a woman weeks before he launched his first congressional campaign in 2019, according to the Daily Beast.

The report shows that Santos allegedly was married to Uadla Santos and divorced in September 2019.

Santos said he was married to a woman from 2012-2017 but told the Post he is now married and “very much gay,” saying the previous relationship “got a little toxic.”

The congressman-elect also admitted to being in debt and fined more than $12,000 in May 2017 after a Queens landlord claimed he was owed more than $10,000 in rent over a five-month period. Santos said he did not own 13 different properties despite previously calling out alleged tenants of said properties for “taking advantage” of rental assistance offered during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming he and his family had not been paid rent in nearly a year.

Santos’ campaign website says the Republican’s grandparents “fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium and again fled persecution during WWII.”

A review of genealogy reports done by The Forward, an independent, Jewish publication, showed that his grandparents, Paulo Horta Devolder and Rosalina Caruso Horta Devolder, were both born in Brazil prior to 1930 when the Nazi Party secured more than 100 seats in Germany’s parliament.

The report claims Santos’ mother, Fatima Aziza Caruso Horta Devolder was born to Paulo and Rosalina in a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. His mother’s Facebook page does not contain references to Judaism but several pages she “liked” were for various Catholic groups.

Other posts she has shared on her Facebook page, which include pictures of her and the congressman-elect, include depictions of Jesus and quotes from the Bible. His mother died in 2016, according to an online obituary.

Santos, in a 2020 interview, said his family converted to Christianity while living in Brazil. Santos told the Post that he “never claimed to be Jewish” but that his “maternal family had a Jewish background,” which he meant as being “Jew-ish.”

The Times also reported that in 2008, when Santos was 19, he stole the checkbook of a man his mother was caring for, according to Brazilian court records.

Police and court records show that Santos used the checkbook to make fraudulent purchases, including a pair of shoes. Two years later, Santos confessed to the crime and was later charged.

The court and local prosecutor in Brazil confirmed the case remains unresolved, The Times reported.

Brazilian authorities told the Times on Monday that a formal request will be made to the U.S. Justice Department to notify Santos of the charges.

Santos disputed those claims, telling the Post, “I am not a criminal here- not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world.”

The Times also questioned the tax-exempt classification of Santos’ charity, Friends of Pets United.

The Internal Revenue Service was unable to provide The Times with any information showing that the charity had tax-exempt status. The charity’s 2017 fund-raising event had a $50 entry charge, according to the newspaper, but a representative from the event’s beneficiary said it did not receive any of the proceeds.

The Times’ analysis of property records databases in Nassau County and New York City did not show any deeds associated with anyone in the Santos family or their company, the Devolder Organization.

Santos described the company, according to The Times, as one that managed $80 million in assets. The Republican also described it as a capital introduction consulting company on his congressional financial disclosure forms.

Several election law experts told The Times that omitting the company’s clients on the financial reports “could be problematic” if the clients exist.

Santos loaned his campaign more than $700,000 during this year’s election cycle while donating thousands more to other candidates over the last two years, according to The Times. The Republican reported a $750,000 salary and more than $1 million in dividends from the Devolder Organization, according to the Times.

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, who currently represents the district and defeated Santos in 2020, told CNN that the Republican had $40,000 in his campaign account two years ago before having an excess of $700,000 this year.

“I never even mentioned his name in the campaign, I beat him by 12 points, Suozzi said. “Now, all of a sudden he as all this money that he loaned from himself. When he was running against me, he was being evicted for non-payment of rent.”

Santos was quoted as saying he was “at the Ellipse on Jan. 6,” the day of rioting at the U.S. Capitol, and is quoted on video saying he “wrote a nice check for a law firm” to aid the rioters who stormed the building.

Kevin Madden, a top aide for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, told Newsday that the chances that an Ethics Committee investigation be launched into Santos are small.

“McCarthy is sitting on a razor-thin congressional majority, so his default position will likely be to say the people of New York’s 3rd Congressional District made their decision and he’ll abide by it,” Madden told Newsday.

Republicans have a 222-213 majority in Congress for the first time since 2018 following the results of this year’s midterm elections.

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