After cracks emerged in his life story, Rep.-elect George Santos (R) is now reportedly being scrutinized by by local and federal prosecutors.
A little more than a week ago, The New York Times published an investigation poking holes in the congressman-elect’s self-depiction as the “embodiment of the American dream.” Santos claimed he graduated from Baruch College, became a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and had a registered charity called Friends of Pets United. The Times found no evidence any of that was true, and other discrepancies soon followed, including genealogy records contradicting his claims that his grandparents escaped the Holocaust. Santos acknowledged that he exaggerated his ties to Judaism, calling himself “Jew-ish.”
Now, prosecutors from various jurisdictions are examining his public record.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly called the “numerous fabrications and inconsistencies” associated with Santos “nothing short of stunning.”
“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” Donnelly wrote in a statement sent to Law&Crime. “No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”
Donnelly’s spokesperson added: “We are looking into the matter.”
According to ABC News, prosecutors at the Eastern District of New York have been examining public filings such as financial disclosure forms, though the network’s sources said the U.S. Attorney’s office also stopped short of formally calling it an investigation. All of the prosecutors’ offices scrutinizing Santos have used that guarded language.
The U.S. Attorney’s office declined Law&Crime’s request for comment.
A financial disclosure report filed in 2020, the year Santos ran for office, disclosed no assets and a salary of $55,000.
In the 2022 filing year, Santos reported between $1 and $5 million from Devolder Organization, a company he reported founded the prior year. Campaign finance records show Santos loaned his campaign more than $700,000, prompting a pointed question from Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.).
The background noise surrounding George Santos must not distract from the central issue.
The $700,000 dollar question: Where did all the money come from? pic.twitter.com/6fjKLMNdLh
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) December 28, 2022
“The background noise surrounding George Santos must not distract from the central issue,” Torres tweeted. “The $700,000 dollar question: Where did all the money come from?”
Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner told Law&Crime the public records suggest “serious campaign finance issues” at play.
“If in fact that money did not come from Santos, but came from a third party — which seems highly likely, given the fact that his claims about how he’s made his money, do not bear any scrutiny — that is very serious felony,” said Epner, a partner at Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC. “That is, in fact, the type of campaign finance violation that sends people frequently to jail.”
Epner noted that conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza was prosecuted for campaign finance fraud involving straw donors.
If Santos lied on a government form, Epner said, that could spark other possible exposure.
“If you lie to an agency on an official form, it doesn’t even have to be under oath: That is a felony,” he said, noting that there are state analogues that could be looked into by local prosecutors.
Unless it turns out Santos is not a citizen — and the congressman-elect says he is — Epner suspects that none of these developments would prevent him from being seated.
“It is possible that immediately after his being seated as a representative, the Ethics Committee will announce an investigation, and as a part of that investigation, he ends up being removed as a representative,” Epner added. “But that would require at least one Republican on the ethics committee to go along with disciplining Santos for his fraudulent statements.”
A spokesperson for New York Attorney General Letitia James reiterated to Law&Crime that her office is also “looking into” the matter.
“We said last week that we’re looking into some of the issues that had been raised, nothing new beyond that,” the spokesperson said.
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