The Brazilian lawyer that out Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has selected to defend him against fraud charges in the country was reportedly convicted and incarcerated for his involvement in a gang execution.
Jonymar Vasconcelos, 47, received an 18-year sentence in 2007 over the shooting death of a mechanic Aristeu Vieira de Mattos in 2004, according to São Paulo newspaper Folha.
The outlet reports that Vasconcelos is believed to have paid for the killing. He reportedly went to the mechanic’s house with a few other men on the morning of December 3, 2004. Vasconcelos was in the Navy at the time, Folha reports.
After serving five years in prison, he was moved to house arrest in 2009. He started studying law around that time as well.
Last June, Vasconcelos was released.
Santos was accused in 2008 of paying for some items with a stolen checkbook. Brazil recently revived the case as Santos came to national attention over lying about his biography and the growing scrutiny of his financial dealings by state and federal authorities.
The Brazilian news outlet asked Santos if he was aware of Vasconcelos's past and questioned the disgraced lawmaker how he found Vasconcelos since the lawyer is not affiliated with a law firm.
After Folha sent questions to Santos’s office in Portuguese, the paper got a response that said Santos does not understand the language. Santos has given interviews in Portuguese and is the son of Brazilians. The congressman did not respond to the questions when sent in English.
Vasconcelos said Santos found him because of the lawyer's reputation.
“George came to me by recommendation, seeing the number of lawsuits that I successfully handled. I have had success in more than 350 of the lawsuits I have worked on,” he said, according to the paper.
Earlier this week, Santos told conference members that he would be stepping down from his committee assignments for a time, according to people familiar with the conversation. He said he was doing so because of the attention he was receiving. Santos was appointed to the Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology recently.