U.S. Rep. George Santos, the center of local and national probes into his professional, financial and political life, was arrested on Wednesday morning based on a 13-count indictment related to his financial and professional background, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of New York.
The charges against the embattled congressman, whose fraudulent resume was exposed by the New York Times and other media outlets earlier this year, include 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 Congress, officials announced Wednesday.
Santos is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, according to officials. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the top counts if convicted.
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice have been investigating the congressman’s campaign filings. Santos told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he was unaware of the charges against him.
“This is news to me,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “You’re the first to call me about this.”
Efforts to reach Santos for comment were unavailing.
Santos, in 2022, allegedly defrauded prospective political supporters and used a Queens-based political consultant to tell donors that their money would be used for his congressional campaign, officials said. A pair of unidentified donors transferred $25,000 each into an LLC controlled by Santos before those funds were transferred to Santos’ personal bank accounts, officials said.
Santos allegedly used the funds for personal purchases, withdrew cash, transfer money to his associates and settle personal debts, officials said.
In June 2020, officials said, Santos was employed as a regional director for a Florida-based investment firm, but applied for government assistance through the New York state Department of Labor, claiming he had been unemployed since March 2020. From March 2020 to April 2021, officials said, Santos received more than $24,000 in fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits.
In May 2020, Santos filed two fraudulent House Disclosures in connection with his unsuccessful run for Congress against former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, officials said. In those disclosures, he allegedly overstated the income he received from a second company he worked at and did not disclose the salary he received from the Florida-based investment firm, according to officials.
In September 2022, during his most recent run for Congress, Santos falsely claimed he earned $750,000 in salary from the Devolder Organization LLC, which he was the sole beneficial owner, received between $1,00,001 and $5,000,000 in dividends from the Devolder Organization LLC, had a checking account with deposits between $100,001 and $250,000 and had a savings accounts with deposits between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000, according to officials.
He also failed to disclose to the House that he received around $28,000 in income from the Florida-based investment firm and more than $20,000 in unemployment benefits from the labor department, according to officials.
Santos defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in the 3rd Congressional District election in November. He announced the launch of his re-election campaign last month, despite a lack of support from local and state GOP organizations, including the Nassau County Republican Party.
Zimmerman, in a statement Tuesday night, once again called for Santos to resign from Congress and for other Republican officials to execute his expulsion.
“George Santos betrayed voters, broke the law, and should resign from Congress,” Zimmerman said. “Long Island and Queens deserve a representative who will tell the truth and focus entirely on lowering costs for families, making our communities safer, and upgrading our infrastructure. If Republicans in the House fail to move for his immediate expulsion, they will be accomplices to his crimes.”
U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park), who represents the 4th Congressional District, also echoed calls for Santos to step down from his seat.
“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,” D’Esposito said in a statement Tuesday.
Democratic Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan, who lost to Zimmerman in last year’s Democratic Primary and is again running for the 3rd District seat, said the reported charges prove there is no longer a reason for Santos to stay in the House.
“With disgraced Rep. George Santos finally indicted, Legislator Josh Lafazan is calling for his immediate expulsion from the House of Representatives,” Lafazan said in a statement. “There is now no further excuse to keep Santos in the House. This federal indictment confirms what we have known all along – that Santos broke the public trust, and violated federal law in the process. It is time to end the national nightmare that has been George Santos, and 78 Republican members of the House must join with Democrats and vote to expel Santos immediately.”
Republican Kellen Curry, who filed to run against Santos for his seat earlier this year, did not call for Santos to step down in a statement but said the 3rd District residents deserve a constituent who will effectively represent them.
“I am deeply concerned by the serious criminal charges filed against my opponent, George Santos,” Curry said Tuesday. “While Santos is trying to bring more entertainment to politics, the constituents of NY-3 continue to go unrepresented. New Yorkers deserve a representative that is focused and dedicated to serving them with integrity.”
The FBI and justice department’s probe into Santos’ political finance history is one of the various investigations the congressman is at the center of since the unearthing of falsehoods in his resume in January.
The Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance democracy through the law, questioned the newly elected congressman’s influx of wealth after he reported a salary of $55,000 in 2020, which rose to $750,000 in 2022 and $1 million to $5 million in dividends.
The organization also called the congressman’s $705,000 loan to his campaign into question, claiming he falsified reports on nearly 40 expenditure filings under $200.
The center filed the complaint with the Federal Election Commission and the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in January.
The Federal Election Commission said in a letter to the Devolder Santos Nassau Victory Committee that three donors made contributions exceeding the legal limits by $76,000.
The House Ethics Committee launched a formal investigation into Santos in March and will scrutinize his most recent congressional campaign, officials announced.
The committee will determine if the embattled representative failed to properly disclose information and statements to Congress, engaged in sexual misconduct with someone seeking employment in his D.C. office and violated potential federal conflict-of-interest laws.
Financial disclosures showed that four political action committees with ties to Santos and his family contributed almost $185,000 to the Nassau County Republican Party, money that will be returned, according to Nassau County Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo.
The Rise NY PAC contributed $64,225 to the Nassau GOP and $62,500 to the Town of Hempstead Republican Party. The Nassau GOP also received $47,966 from the Devolder Santos Nassau Victory Committee, $10,000 from the GADS (George Anthony Devolder Santos) PAC and $750 from Devolder-Santos For Congress.
Cairo told Newsday that the Nassau GOP will return the Rise NY money, which totals $126,725 and reiterated the lack of support Santos has from the organization.
Over the past two years, Santos also donated thousands to Nassau County organizations and elected officials.
Included in the filings is $500 to Elaine Philips’ campaign when she was running for Nassau County comptroller for an event donation, a personal contribution of $500 to the Sands Point-Port Washington Republican Committee, $750 to the Nassau County Republican Primary Campaign, $1,000 to D’Esposito’s campaign, $250 to the Glen Cove Knights of Columbus, $200 to the campaign for Vhibuti Jha, who ran for the state’s 16th Assembly District, and $500 to the campaign for Ruka Anzai, who ran for the state’s 13th Assembly District.
Santos’ campaign outspent other Republican House winners on Long Island and Zimmerman on flights, hotels and restaurants during the campaign, according to financial disclosure reports.
Santos spent over $42,000 on flights, more than the $17,637 spent on flights by D’Esposito, Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport), Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville) and Zimmerman.
He also shelled out nearly $30,000 on hotels compared to the $22,233 by the other four. Filings show spending by the Santos campaign at the Garden City Hotel, W Hotel in Miami Beach and Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C.
Santos also laid out more than $31,000 at restaurants, with Garbarino in second place with expenditures of $24,155. He spent over $4,500 during 25 different visits to Il Bacco, the Little Neck restaurant where he also held his victory party at on Election Night.