George Santos Formally Charged, Pleads Not Guilty

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York formally charged Rep. George Santos 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.

The 13-count indictment was returned yesterday by a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip, New York. Santos was arrested on Wednesday and was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York.

“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” stated United States Attorney Breon Peace. “Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself. He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives.”

The charges include fraudulent political contribution solicitation scheme, in which the Justice Department is alleging Santos operated a limited liability company through which he allegedly defrauded prospective political supporters.

The neophyte congressman enlisted a Queens-based political consultant to falsely tell donors that, among other things, their money would be used to help elect Santos to the House, including by purchasing television advertisements. However, shortly after the funds were donated to the company, the money was transferred into Santos’s personal bank accounts and was used to make personal purchases–including of designer clothing.

Santos was also charged for unemployment insurance fraud, alleging that he falsely claimed to have been unemployed since March 2020 when he was employed as a Regional Director of a Florida-based investment firm beginning February 2020 until April 2021. The lawmaker allegedly fraudulently received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits.

In his press conference, when Santos was asked why he claimed unemployment benefits, he said that “during the pandemic, it wasn’t really clear” what the policies were.

The indictment also accuses Santos of misrepresenting facts to the House of Representatives and the public about his financial condition in connection with each of his two Congressional campaigns, including falsely certifying that he had earned $750,000 in salary from the Devolder Organization LLC, a Florida‑based entity of which Santos was the sole beneficial owner. The authorities allege this information was false.

If convicted of the charges, Santos faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the top counts. 

Not guilty, won’t resign

Santos pleaded not guilty to all the charges, maintaining his innocence. On top of that, the Republican lawmaker said he won’t resign from Congress and plans to run for reelection.

He was released on a $500,000 bond but had to surrender his passport. The lawmaker would also need the court’s approval should he wish to travel beyond New York and Washington DC.

The charging and the arraignment happened on the day the 118th Congress of the House of Representatives took their official photo, which Santos missed. The beleaguered freshman lawmaker has kept a low profile as a member of Congress as inquiries have followed him since his arrival in Washington earlier this year.

He supported House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in his contentious bid for speaker and has maintained an active Twitter presence, but he requested removal from House committees in January due to “ongoing attention surrounding both my personal and campaign financial investigations.”

When asked to comment on Santos’ indictment, McCarthy said he would follow the same procedure he had for other politicians facing accusations. 

“If a person is indicted, they are not on committees,” he added, before stating that if a lawmaker is convicted, he will request their resignation. “In America, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.” he added.

US President Joe Biden declined to comment on Santos’ charges and potential expulsion from Congress, saying it’s up to the House of Representatives to decide whether they should remove the indicted lawmaker. “Look, if I comment at all on Santos, you’re all going to say I’m getting the Justice Department to do things. I’m not commenting on Santos at all,” Biden said.

Santos said he will return to DC to vote on a border bill Thursday, also calling the indictment a “witch hunt.”

“I have to go back and vote,” he said. “Tomorrow we have one of the most consequential votes in this Congress, which is the border bill, and I’m very looking forward to being there to vote on it.”

Information for this briefing was found via the CNN and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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