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Rep. George Santos indicted on 13 charges

Fraud, theft, money laundering and more related to 'various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,' prosecutors say

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., is seen in the Capitol Visitor Center in February.
Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., is seen in the Capitol Visitor Center in February. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Embattled New York Republican Rep. George Santos has been indicted on 13 federal charges in New York that include wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and false statements to the House of Representatives.

U.S. Attorney Breon Peace announced the charges Wednesday and released an unsealed grand jury indictment from the Eastern District of New York against the first-term representative for parts of Queens and Long Island.

The indictment also includes allegations that Santos fraudulently redirected campaign donations to his own accounts and falsely applied for unemployment benefits.

“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” Peace said in a news release.

Santos, who surrendered to federal law enforcement, pleaded not guilty at a hearing Wednesday. He was released on a $500,000 bond and will next appear before the judge on June 30, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The indictment alleges that Santos defrauded two individuals of $25,000 each in donations he said were meant to support his political campaign but were instead funneled to personal accounts. Santos then used those funds for personal expenses, including paying debts and purchasing designer clothes, the indictment said.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that Santos falsely applied for and received unemployment benefits while he was still working at an investment firm in 2020. Santos received more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits while he was still employed, the indictment said.

The indictment also alleges that Santos made false statements tied to his failed 2020 campaign for office as part of federally required House disclosures. In those disclosures, Santos hid more than $25,000 in income he received from an investment firm, instead saying it came from another company, the indictment states.

Then in 2022, Santos allegedly inflated his income from Devolder Organization LLC, which he stated was $750,000 and unearned income of between $1 million and $5 million, the indictment states. His income at the time, however, was $28,107 from an investment firm and $20,304 in unemployment benefits.

If convicted of the wire fraud and other charges, Santos faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. Santos’ case was assigned to Judge Joanna Seybert, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

Outside the New York courthouse, Santos called the case a “witch hunt” and said it “makes no sense” for him to be indicted when President Joe Biden’s family members had not been indicted on unspecified crimes.

“I’m going to fight, I’m going to fight my battle, I’m going to deliver, I’m going to take care of clearing my name,” Santos said.

Santos said the charges against him, such as fraudulently obtaining unemployment aid, were inaccurate. He also said he would not resign and still plans to run for reelection next year.

Santos won election to New York’s 3rd District last year and has faced controversy about false statements over his record since shortly after the election. He voluntarily stepped away from committee assignments.

In March the Ethics Committee convened a panel to investigate Santos, including possible campaign finance violations.

Hill responses

While numerous members of both parties already had called for Santos to resign from the closely divided House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other members of Republican leadership have declined to do so.

McCarthy told CNN on Wednesday that he wouldn’t support Santos’ reelection bid next year. Santos was elected by 8 points last year in a district that President Joe Biden would have won by 8 points in 2020.
“I think he has other things to focus on in his life,” he said.

The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, told reporters Wednesday that Democratic leaders were still reviewing the charges. He did not commit to pursuing measures that could expel Santos from the chamber.

Aguilar tied Santos’ presence in Congress to McCarthy’s narrow control of the chamber, which is currently at four votes. “It is just an unfortunate thing that we are all colleagues together and this fraud that has been perpetrated against the people of New York,” Aguilar said.

House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters Wednesday that Santos already does not serve on House committees and did not call on Santos to resign.

“In America there is a presumption of innocence, but they’re serious charges. He’s going to have to go through the legal process,” Scalise said.

But some Republicans called on Santos to resign following the indictment. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., told reporters Wednesday Santos “absolutely” should resign.

“It’s a distraction. And it’s a punchline for a lot of commentary regarding the Republican Party that we don’t need,” Womack said.

Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, tweeted that Santos should step down. “The people of New York’s 3rd District deserve a voice in Congress. George Santos should be immediately expelled from Congress and a special election initiated at the soonest possible date,” Gonzales said.

The arrest also raises the question of how much House business Santos may miss out on this week. The chamber is scheduled to vote Thursday on a Republican immigration bill that has been contentious in the closely divided chamber.

Additionally, Santos was one of 36 co-sponsors on a bill meant to deter unemployment fraud the House announced plans to vote on this week. The chamber approved a rule for the measure’s consideration by a vote of 215-209 Wednesday.

The bill would extend the statute of limitations for seeking overpayment of unemployment benefits tied to the pandemic and allow states to keep a portion of funds that are recovered from overpayments or fraudulent payments.