Rep. George Santos, a gay Republican from New York, surrendered himself into police custody on Wednesday morning and has pleaded not guilty to federal criminal charges.
He was indicted on 13 counts by a federal grand jury.
Documents unsealed by the court allege Santos is charged with three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of materially false statements to Congress.
Between September and October 2022, he devised and executed a scheme to defraud supporters of his candidacy for the House and to obtain money from them by fraudulently inducing supporters to contribute funds to an [unnamed company] under the false pretense that the money would be used to support [his] candidacy and then actually spending thousands of dollars on the solicited funds on personal expenses, including luxury designer clothing and credit card payments,” according to the indictment.
Furthermore, the criminal complaint accused Santos of telling a political consultant to push “false information” about an unnamed company, claiming that it was an independent expenditure committee or a social welfare organization.
It is alleged that Santos told his political consultant to tell his supporters that contributions to his campaign would be used for independent expenditures to benefit his candidacy.
According to the indictment, however, the company was neither a social welfare organization nor an independent expenditure committee, and Santos “converted most of those funds to his own personal benefit.”
He also allegedly applied for unemployment insurance in New York in June 2020 while employed by an investment firm in Florida, earning $120,000 a year as part of a fraud scheme to get unemployment benefits, the indictment states.
Additionally, Santos is accused of lying to the House about his financial situation.
During his first unsuccessful campaign in May 2020, he is charged with failing to disclose his salary from an investment firm. Santos also allegedly fabricated financial statements during his second election in September 2022.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement that his office is bringing responsibility to Santos.
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” Peace said. “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.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll praised the law enforcement agency’s activities in the case.
“As today’s enforcement action demonstrates, the FBI remains committed to holding all equally accountable under the law. As we allege, Congressman Santos committed federal crimes, and he will now be forced to face the consequences of his actions,” Driscoll said.
Since December, media outlets have reported on numerous lies Santos told during his campaign about his background, personal wealth, and campaign finances. In the end, Santos admitted to lying about significant portions of his biography but denied that he committed a crime.
It was discovered that he handled the finances of an animal rescue charity he claimed to operate before running for Congress and that his personal affairs were mixed with his campaign business. In addition, he was found to have raised and irregularly spent his campaign funds as well.
Santos's campaign also made many questionable expenditures, which it claimed were just a penny short of the mandatory receipt reporting requirements.
House Speaker Kevin McCarrthy has refused to ask Santos to resign or expel him after relying on his vote to win the speakership.
Though he has stood by the embattled fabulist, his position may soon change.
McCarthy told CNN on Tuesday that he was taking a close look at the charges against Santos and would make a decision after that, but that he believed that in the U.S. everybody was innocent until proven guilty.
Democratic first-year out California congressman Rep. Robert Garcia took notice and is holding the Speaker’s feet to the fire.
In February, Garcia filed a resolution to expel Santos from the legislative body.
“Hey @SpeakerMcCarthy when will you bring our resolution to expel George Santos to the floor? 1 count of theft of public funds. 2 counts of lying to the House. 3 counts of money laundering. 7 counts of wire fraud. America is watching,” he wrote on Twitter.
Santos appeared at an arraignment Wednesday afternoon before Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip.
He pleaded not guilty to the 13 charges.
The lawmaker’s attorney, Joseph Murray, said his client intends to run for re-election and has asked the court for permission to travel freely, though he has surrendered his passport, USA Today reports.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect Rep. Santos’s not-guilty plea.