Washington — Federal prosecutors have charged Republican Rep. George Santos of New York with fraud, money laundering and other crimes, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday, a stunning development following months of scrutiny of the freshman congressman that began after lies he told about his background began to unravel.
Santos is in custody at the federal courthouse and is expected to appear before a judge in Central Islip, New York, on Wednesday afternoon.
The charges against Santos were filed by federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York, one of several investigative entities examining the GOP lawmaker’s congressional campaign and financial dealings. Local and state authorities, as well as the FBI and law enforcement in Brazil, have also been investigating Santos.
The congressman was elected to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District in November and has spent the months since then dogged by questions about his education and professional experience, as well as his finances and campaign spending.
Santos has been accused of illegally using funds raised during his 2022 congressional campaign for personal expenses and for submitting false information about the source of his donations as well as campaign expenses. A series of payments listed on Santos’ campaign finance filings for exactly $199.99, one cent below the $200 threshold where receipts are required, was also uncovered, further raising questions about his campaign spending.
The FBI was probing Santos’ alleged role in purporting to raise funds for a veteran’s dying dog through pet charity, while the Securities and Exchange Commission has scrutinized his work at Harbor City Capital, a financial firm that was shut down in 2021 for allegedly operating as a Ponzi scheme.
Santos was questioned by the U.S. Secret Service in 2017 as part of an investigation into a scheme to skim ATM numbers. A sworn declaration the agency received from a Brazilian man arrested for installing skimmers at a Seattle bank claimed Santos was “in charge of” the credit card fraud ploy.
Santos’ troubles have followed him to Capitol Hill, where he recused himself from two House committees due to the “ongoing attention” from the multitude of investigations into his alleged misconduct. The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into Santos in March, part of which involves whether he engaged in unlawful activity regarding his 2022 congressional campaign and whether he failed to properly disclose required information on House statements.
Santos admitted to “embellishing” his resume, but has otherwise denied any other wrongdoing.
The steady flow of revelations about the New York Republican has led to calls for his resignation, including from Republicans in the New York delegation. Many have reiterated their demands for Santos to step down from his House seat in light of the criminal charges filed against him.
Santos, though, has resisted the pressure to leave Congress and announced in April that he would seek a second term in 2024.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has also continued to rebuff questions about whether he would call for Santos to resign, telling reporters Tuesday that he would do so if Santos is eventually convicted. Republicans have a slim majority in the House, and McCarthy can only afford four defections in order for his legislative priorities to pass.
“If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees,” McCarthy said. “They have the right to vote, but they have to go to trial.”