Santos isn’t the first member of Congress indicted. Here’s how others ended up
Most stayed in office while fighting charges
Rep. George Santos is not the first sitting member of Congress to be indicted, and he probably won’t be the last. But few in recent memory have reached the level of infamy he’s attained during his time on Capitol Hill.
News reports published after the New York Republican was elected detailed how there was no evidence for swaths of his personal history.
In March, the House Ethics Committee voted to set up an investigative panel to probe whether Santos violated campaign laws during his 2022 run for Congress, failed to properly disclose required information to the House or violated laws prohibiting conflicts of interest in his past role at a financial firm.
A 13-count federal indictment unsealed Wednesday charged Santos with wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to the House. Santos told reporters he would fight to clear his name, would not resign and still plans to run for reelection next year.
Barring a vote by two-thirds of the House to expel him, Santos can remain a voting member, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Tuesday he should be allowed to do that and stand trial.
Here’s a look at members who were indicted on criminal charges while in office during the past 15 years and what happened to them.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, was indicted in October 2021 on three charges of concealing information and lying to federal authorities who were investigating contributions made to Fortenberry’s 2016 reelection campaign at a Los Angeles fundraiser.
A federal jury found Fortenberry guilty in March 2022 of "one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators," according to a DOJ news release. After his conviction, McCarthy called for Fortenberry’s resignation, and he complied.
Fortenberrry avoided prison time but was sentenced last year to two years’ probation.
Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican, was indicted and charged in 2018 with tipping off his son about confidential corporate information regarding an Australian biotechnology company on whose board Collins served. Collins resigned from Congress in 2019, around the time he pleaded guilty to two counts — conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements to law enforcement officials.
Collins was sentenced in 2020 to more than two years in federal prison for insider trading. Collins had started serving his prison sentence but was granted a full pardon by President Donald Trump.
Rep. Duncan Hunter was indicted in 2018 and eventually was sentenced in 2020 to just under a year in federal prison for pilfering more than $150,000 of campaign funds. He resigned his seat. Trump granted Hunter a full pardon.
Hunter, a California Republican who pleaded guilty, illegally spent campaign money on a range of endeavors, including Lego sets, movie tickets and a $14,000 family vacation to Italy. Hunter also spent campaign money on Uber rides to the homes of girlfriends for extramarital affairs, and on Marlboro cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida was indicted in July 2016 on charges of fraud in a case related to an education charity and was ousted in a Democratic primary the following month.
A federal jury convicted Brown in 2017. Trial evidence showed that Brown and others solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable donations “based on false representations” that the money would be used for school computer drives and college scholarships, among other causes, according to the department. She received a five-year prison sentence.
Sen. Bob Menendez in 2015 was indicted on charges that campaign contributions, trips and accommodations provided by a Florida eye specialist were bribes to get the senator’s help in battles over Medicare reimbursement.
The New Jersey Democrat vowed to fight the charges and said he was confident “at the end of the day I will be vindicated.”
After a jury could not reach a verdict in 2017, the judge acquitted the senator in January 2018 on the most serious charges and the Justice Department later dropped the rest. Menendez was "severely adomonished" by the Senate Ethics Committee over the gifts in April 2018 but went on to win reelection that year by more than 11 points.
The eye specialist was convicted of Medicare fraud in a separate case but had his sentence commuted by Trump.
Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania and his associates were indicted in 2015 for their parts in a “racketeering conspiracy,” according to a Justice Department news release.
In June 2016, a federal jury found Fattah guilty in the case, and he resigned his seat, though he had already lost a primary in which he was seeking another term. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, then resentenced in 2019 after an appellate court ruling, according to the Justice Department.
Michael G. Grimm
In 2014, Rep. Michael G. Grimm, a New York Republican, was indicted in a case connected with the health food store he operated before he was elected to Congress.
Prosecutors accused him of failing to report money he received over the course of running the store, called Healthalicious. An IRS official said Grimm underreported $900,000 in restaurant gross receipts, according to the DOJ release.
He pleaded guilty “to aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return,” according to a Justice Department press release.
Grimm announced that he would resign his congressional seat the same month he entered his plea.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was indicted in July 2008 for making false statements on financial disclosure forms. Tried and convicted that October on charges he failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts, he was defeated in his bid for reelection in November.
In April 2009, however, the Justice Department asked and a court agreed to overturn the conviction because prosecutors had improperly withheld evidence from Stevens’ legal team.
Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona was indicted in 2008 on counts tied to his efforts to get the federal government to buy land from his business partner. Renzi did not run for reelection in 2008.
Renzi was sentenced in 2013 to prison after a federal jury convicted him of extortion, bribery, insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeering, according to the Justice Department.
The department, citing evidence at trial, said Renzi promised to use his legislative sway to profit from a land exchange, which involved property that was owned by an investor.
A federal appeals court, when it upheld Renzi's conviction in 2014, wrote: “Congressmen may write the law, but they are not above the law.”
Renzi was later pardoned by Trump.