WASHINGTON — Representative George Santos, RN.Y., was taken into custody Wednesday morning at a Long Island courthouse as the Justice Department unsealed a 13-count federal indictment against him.
Santos, 34, will be arraigned at a hearing at 1 pm ET where the charges against him will be read.
The congressman has been charged with 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 the House of Representatives, according to the Justice Department.
Santos is accused of defrauding potential political supporters in September 2022 by recruiting a Queens-based political consultant, described by the Justice Department as «Person #1,» to contact potential donors on the congressman’s behalf.
“Santos allegedly directed Person #1 to falsely tell donors that, among other things, their money would be used to help elect Santos to the House, including through the purchase of television advertisements,” the Department of Justice.
Two anonymous contributors then each wired $25,000 to a bank account Santos controlled.
“Santos allegedly used a large part of that money for personal expenses. Among other things, Santos allegedly used the funds to make personal purchases (including designer clothing), withdraw cash, pay off personal debts, and transfer money to his associates,” the Justice Department said.
The indictment also alleged that Santos engaged in unemployment insurance fraud beginning in 2020 by applying for unemployment benefits that were made available to Americans out of work during the Covid pandemic.
He requested the money despite being employed as a regional director for a Florida-based investment firm, where he earned an annual salary of $120,000, according to the indictment.
Santos allegedly falsely claimed that he had been unemployed since March 2020, the Justice Department said. From then until April 2021, when Santos was collecting a salary, «he falsely claimed every week that he was entitled to unemployment when he was not.»
«As a result, Santos allegedly fraudulently received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits,» the Justice Department said.
The congressman is also accused in the indictment of misleading the House of Representatives and the public about his financial situation during his two congressional campaigns.
During his first campaign, in May 2020, Santos reported in two House disclosures that his income from work consisted of salaries, commissions and bonuses totaling $55,000 from a company, which the Justice Department identified as Company #. 2, and claimed that the only «compensation over $5,000 he received from a single source was an unspecified commission bonus» from the company, the Justice Department alleged.
But Santos had actually exaggerated the income he received from the company and did not disclose the salary he received from the investment firm, the Justice Department alleged.
For his campaign last year, Santos also allegedly overstated his income and assets. He claimed that he had received a salary of $750,000 from his Florida-based company, Devolder Organization LLC; between $1 million and $5 million in dividends from that company; he had a checking account with deposits between $100,000 and $250,000; and had a savings account with deposits between $1 million and $5 million.
“These assertions were false: Santos had not received the reported amounts of salaries or dividends from the Devolder Organization LLC and did not maintain checking or savings accounts with deposits in the reported amounts,” the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department said Santos would face up to 20 years in prison on the main charges if convicted. Prosecutors said the FBI has been investigating the case with the assistance of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the IRS.
Santos lied about his education and background when he ran for Congress, falsehoods made public after he was elected to a Long Island seat in November.
This is a developing story. Please check for updates.