JAKE OFFENHARTZ and MICHAEL R. SISAK (Associated Press)
Islip, Central New York (AP) — New York Republican Rep. George Santos, a notorious life story hoaxer, cheated Wednesday to collect unemployment benefits he did not deserve after pleading not guilty.
Santos’ 13 federal indictments were a calculation of a web of fraud and deception that prosecutors say overlapped with his fanciful public image as a wealthy businessman.
Santos, 34, turned himself in to Long Island authorities and was arraigned about five hours after facing charges of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements to Congress. He was due to be released on $500,000 bail following a $500,000 bail.
Santos said little during the arraignment, which lasted about 15 minutes. His lawyers said he plans to continue his recently announced re-election campaign, defying calls to resign.He has surrendered his passport but has asked a judge for permission for Santos to travel freely. rice field.
Santos attorney Joseph Murray told reporters the congressman was in good spirits.
In the complaint, prosecutors say Santos induced supporters to donate to the company under false pretenses that they would be used to support his campaign. Instead, he used the money for designer clothes and personal expenses such as credit card and car payments, they say.
Santos has also been accused of lying about his finances on Congressional disclosure forms and applying for and receiving unemployment benefits. He was employed as the regional director of an investment firm, which the government shut down in 2021 after allegations it was a Ponzi scheme.
The indictment “seeks to hold Santos liable for various fraud allegations and blatant misrepresentations,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. “Taken together, the allegations in the indictment accuse Santos of relying on repeated dishonesty and deceit to take the floor of Congress and enrich himself.”
Contacted by the Associated Press on Tuesday, Santos said he was unaware of the allegations.
Santos declined a call to resign after the details of his fictitious resume came to light, but declined the commission’s commission. Is not … In the past, members of Congress from both parties have stayed in office while being indicted.
Santos, 34, was elected to Congress last fall after a campaign based partly on lies. He said he was a wealthy Wall Street dealmaker with a sizable real estate portfolio and a college volleyball star.
In reality, Santos didn’t work for the big financial firm he claims he hired, didn’t go to college, and was struggling financially before running for public office. He claimed that he fueled his run primarily with his self-made wealth, which he earned by brokering expensive toy deals for wealthy clients, but his indictment states that those boasts also claims to be exaggerated.
In regulatory filings, Santos claimed to have lent more than $750,000 to his campaign and related political action committees, but over the years struggled to pay the rent and has filed multiple lawsuits. It was unclear why he gained such wealth so quickly after facing eviction proceedings. .
In a financial disclosure form, Santos reported that it makes $750,000 a year from the family-owned Devolder Organization, but charges made public Wednesday said Santos did not receive that amount and claimed it was from the company. He also claims that he did not receive the $1 million and $5 million dividends mentioned. .
Santos describes the Devolder Organization as a broker for the sale of luxury goods such as yachts and aircraft. The business was incorporated in Florida shortly after Santos left his job as a salesman for Harbor City Capital.
In November 2021, Santos founded Redstone Strategies, a Florida company. Federal prosecutors say Santos tricked donors into funding his lifestyle. According to the indictment, Santos told an employee to solicit donations for the company and gave the person the potential donor’s contact information.
According to the indictment, emails to prospective donors falsely claimed that the company was founded “exclusively” to help bid for Santos’ election and that there was no limit to the amount that could be donated. falsely claimed that the money would be used for television advertising and other campaign costs.
Last October, one month before the election, Santos transferred approximately $74,000 from company safes to a bank account he controlled, according to the indictment. He also sent money to some of his associates, it said.
Many of Santos’ fellow New York Republicans called on him to step down after his fabricated life story came to light. bottom.
“Sooner or later, whether he chooses or not, both truth and justice will be delivered to him,” said US Congressman Mark Molinaro, a Republican who represents parts of upstate New York. .
Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who confronted Santos in President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in February, said Santos should have resigned long ago.
“I think you’re seeing the wheels of justice spinning slowly, but well,” Romney said.
House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise were more cautious, saying Santos deserves a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Santos has faced criminal investigations before.
When he was 19, he was the subject of a criminal investigation in Brazil for allegedly using stolen checks to purchase items at a clothing store. Brazilian authorities said they had reopened the case.
In 2017, Santos was charged with theft in Pennsylvania after authorities said he spent thousands on fraudulent checks to purchase puppies from dog breeders. The lawsuit was dismissed after Santos claimed his checkbook was stolen and that someone else had taken the dog.
Federal officials are separately investigating complaints about Santos’ work fundraising for groups that claim to help neglected and abused pets. He accused him of failing to provide the $3,000 he had raised to help his pet dog undergo much-needed surgery.
Farnoush Amiri of Washington and Alanna Durkin Richer of Boston contributed to this report.
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https://www.mcall.com/2023/05/10/george-santos-pleads-not-guilty-to-stealing-from-campaign-duping-donors-lying-to-congress/ George Santos pleads not guilty to stealing from campaign, cheating donors, lying to Congress – The Morning Call