Metro Weekly

George Santos: His 10 Biggest Lies (So Far)

Here's a rundown of the allegations of lying that have been lodged against gay Republican New York Congressman George Santos.

U.S. Rep. George Santos – Photo: U.S. House of Representatives

George Santos has come under fire in recent weeks for fabricating parts of his biography and résumé, leading some of his fellow colleagues — both Democrats and Republicans — to call for his ouster. 

For political journalists, the Republican Congressman from New York is the gift that keeps giving. Every day, there seems to be some new story, some new twist that highlights a lie he has told or unearths inconsistencies in past statements.

Keeping track of all these fabrications can soak up hours of one’s time, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the 10 biggest falsehoods — in no particular order — that Santos has been accused of promoting.

1. Santos Allegedly Lied About His Work History.

The 34-year-old Republican claimed to have worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, with a copy of his résumé — obtained by The New York Times — stating that he worked as an “asset manager associate” at Citigroup from February 2011 to January 2014. He also claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs from January to August 2017 as a “project manager.”

A spokeswoman for Citigroup told the Times in an exposé published last month that the company could not confirm Santos’s employment. That spokeswoman also said she was unfamiliar with his job title and noted that Citi had sold off its asset management operations in 2005.

Similarly, a spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs said she could not locate any record of Santos having worked at the company.

In an interview with the New York Post, Santos admitted to misrepresenting his employment, saying he had never “worked directly” for either firm, but worked for LinkBridge Investors, a company he alleged did business with both firms. He chalked up the résumé embellishments to a “poor choice of words.”

At the time Santos claimed to be working for Citigroup, from October 2011 to July 2012, he was working at a Queens-based call center for the Dish Network as a bilingual customer service representative, offering support for Portuguese-speaking customers, according to the local news site Patch.

2. Santos Lied About His Educational Background.

Santos previously claimed to have attended Horace Mann, a prestigious prep school in New York, but was allegedly forced to withdraw after his parents — whom he portrayed as real estate investors — experienced financial hardship due to the 2008 recession.

He repeated this claim on an earlier version of his campaign website when he first sought a seat in Congress in the run-up to the 2020 election.

In an appearance on the YouTube show Police Off the Cuff After Hours, Santos claimed to have attended Mann through 2008 but said he never graduated because of his family’s financial difficulties.

“We were hit a little earlier on with the over-leveraging of real estate and the market started to implode,” he said. “The first thing to go was the prep school. You know, you can’t afford a $2,500 tuition at that point, right? So anyway, um, I left school, uh, four months to graduation.”

A spokesman for Mann told CNN that there was no evidence that Santos had ever attended the school.

“We’ve searched the records, and there is no evidence that George Santos (or any alias) attended Horace Mann,” said Ed Adler, a spokesman for the Horace Mann school.

Santos also claimed to have attended Baruch College and graduated with a 3.89 GPA in 2010 before eventually earning a master’s degree from New York University in 2013. But officials at Baruch College could find no evidence of Santos’s enrollment at the school, even when they searched different spellings of his name or possible aliases. In his interview with the New York Post, he eventually admitted that he had never graduated from any college. 

As part of his claim to having attended Baruch, Santos said in a 2020 radio interview that he had attended the school on a volleyball scholarship and was part of the school’s volleyball team, helping lead them to a championship.

Santos also claimed to have been part of the team that “slayed” Harvard and Yale — despite Baruch never having played Yale during the time that Santos was allegedly enrolled at the school — and claimed to have “sacrificed both my knees” to play for the school, necessitating two knee replacements.

3. Santos Claimed to Be Descended from Jews who Fled the Holocaust.

Santos’s biography on his campaign website stated, “George’s grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.” During various interviews and campaign appearances, he referred to himself as “half Jewish” and a “Latino Jew,” saying he was “proud” of his Jewish heritage even though he had been raised Catholic.

In a May 2022 interview, Santos claimed his grandparents had survived the Holocaust, using his ancestors’ fleeing from persecution as a chance to echo boilerplate Republican talking points about “socialism” and “Marxism.” In another interview, he claimed his mother’s family’s historical Jewish name was “Zabrovsky” but that the name had changed when the family fled Europe. 

Santos was a featured speaker at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting in Las Vegas last November, and a featured guest, along with former U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, the New York Republican Party’s gubernatorial nominee, at a Hanukkah party thrown by the group on Long Island. 

The Republican Jewish Coalition has since accused Santos of deceiving the group and misrepresenting his heritage, and has bluntly stated that Santos “will not be welcome” at future events hosted by the coalition.

In his interview with the Post, Santos denied deceiving anyone about his origins.

“I never claimed to be Jewish,” he said. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.'”

Reporting by the Jewish publication Forward revealed that Santos’s claims of Jewish heritage appear to have no basis in fact. Genealogical websites show Santos’s maternal grandparents were born in Brazil before the Nazis rose to power, that he appeared to have no Jewish or Ukrainian heritage, and that the family has used the name Devolder spanning back several generations.

Gregory Morey-Parker, a former roommate of Santos’s, also suggested there could have been a more sinister motive for using the name “Anthony Zabrovsky” [an amalgamation of his middle name and his mother’s family’s historical Jewish name] for his GoFundMe projects, including his animal charity, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Santos used both his own name and the Zabrovsky moniker.

“He would say, ‘Oh, well, the Jews will give more if you’re a Jew.’ And so that’s the name he used for his GoFundMes,” Morey-Parker said.

4. Santos Has Made Various Inconsistent Claims About His Mother.

Over the years, Santos has made various claims about his mother, Fatima Devolder, her heritage, what she did for a living, and even claimed, at various times, that she had worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center and survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

When he worked at the Dish Network call center, Santos’s co-workers recall him claiming to have come from a well-off family. 

“He used to tell us he was born in Brazil,” Barbara Hurdas, a Greek language representative who worked with Santos, told Patch, “and that he would travel back and forth and that he came from money.”

Morey-Parker, Santos’s ex-roommate, said he was suspicious about some of the inconsistencies in Santos’s biography, noting that the stories he told about his family’s wealth — claiming that the family enjoyed business success and a home on Nantucket — didn’t seem to match the fact that Santos had to take on extra roommates to make rent, or the fact that his mother was working as a housekeeper.

“You’re sitting here bragging about all this money you’re making,” Mr. Morey-Parker said. “Then why is your mother a housekeeper?”

Santos also falsely claimed during a 2020 radio appearance that his mother had “fled socialism” in Europe and moved to the United States. 

“My father fled socialism in Brazil. My mother fled socialism in Europe, and they came here and built a family. And today they can be proud to have a son who is a well-accomplished businessman, who is now running for United States Congress. That’s something that wasn’t in the cards for my family,” Santos said in the interview.

In a different interview, Santos claimed that his mother was an immigrant from Belgium, but genealogical records show that Fatima Devolder was born in Brazil.

As noted before, Santos also claimed that his mother’s family had fled Jewish persecution, but his mother’s Facebook page and posts did not appear to reference any Jewish heritage, instead sharing posts with Catholic themes, according to Forward.

Santos also claimed on Twitter that his mother died in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when he blocked a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. But his biography on his campaign website had claimed that his mother had escaped the South Tower on that day. In other statements, he appeared to back away from the claim that she died on 9/11, but alluded to the idea that his mother, who died of cancer in 2016, may have gotten sick because of her proximity to the terrorist attack.

In an interview with BizTV, Santos claimed both of his parents were at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, but survived, saying, “I get emotional. My parents were both down there the day of the attacks, and fortunately none of them passed.”

However, an investigation by Forward revealed that documents from the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services show that Fatima Devolder, on a 2003 application for a visa to enter the United States, claimed to have left the United States for Brazil in 1999 and had not returned since. As such, it would have been impossible for her to be in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on the day of the terrorist attack. 

5. Santos Allegedly Started a Shady Animal Rescue Charity.

According to The New York Times, Santos claimed to have founded a charity named Friends of Pets United in 2013, which he cited as evidence of his past philanthropic work when he ran for Congress. But the Internal Revenue Service has been unable to find any records showing the group was registered as a nonprofit or charity in either New York or New Jersey.

The Times reports the organization held at least one fundraiser with a New Jersey animal rescue group in 2017, charging an entrance fee of $50 per person. The event’s beneficiary told the newspaper that she had never received any of the funds, and Santos repeatedly made excuses for not forwarding the money raised to her.

More recently, a story has emerged accusing Santos of allegedly stealing money from a GoFundMe earmarked for a homeless veteran’s dying therapy dog.

According to Patch, the veteran, Richard Osthoff, was living with his therapy dog, Sapphire, when the animal developed a life-threatening stomach tumor, which would cost $3,000 to surgically remove. A veterinary technician alerted Osthoff to Santos’s charity, and put him in contact with Santos, who was going by the name Anthony Devolder.

Santos set up a GoFundMe for Sapphire, but after the fundraiser raked in $3,000, Santos allegedly closed the GoFundMe and stopped answering Osthoff’s calls asking where the money was. Sapphire eventually died on Jan. 15, 2017.

Because Osthoff had been out of work with a broken leg for over a year, he couldn’t afford the dog’s euthanasia and cremation, forcing him to panhandle to raise the money, something Osthoff called “one of the most degrading things I ever had to do.”

A second veteran, retired police Sgt. Michael Boll, the founder of the nonprofit NJ Veterans Network, confronted Santos over the phone about the GoFundMe, telling him he needed to give back the money or use it to get Osthoff a new dog. But Boll said Santos was “uncooperative.” He claims Santos told him he planned to use the money to help other animals, but Boll said he couldn’t because the GoFundMe had been specifically to pay for Sapphire’s surgery.

The GoFundMe was later deleted, and an Internet archive website doesn’t have a record of it.

Santos has since pushed back against these latest accusations, tweeting, “The reports that I would let a dog die is shocking & insane. My work in animal advocacy was the labor of love & hard work.”

6. Santos Claimed His Family Owned Various Real Estate Properties.

Santos claimed to own a $1 million apartment in Brazil and asserted that his family had become wealthy due to their real estate dealings. At one point, he claimed his family owned 13 different properties, and decried New York’s moratorium on evictions, which was adopted amid COVID-19 lockdowns. 

But according to subsequent reporting, Santos has since admitted to owning no property, and has reportedly been living with his sister at her apartment in Queens — even though she faces potential eviction for failing to pay rent, according to The Daily Beast.

7. Santos Claimed to Have Been One of the First New Yorkers Diagnosed with COVID-19.

As reported by Washington Post reporter Dan Diamond on his personal Substack, Santos has repeatedly changed his story about coming down with COVID-19, including the symptoms he suffered and the dates he tested positive.

On March 30, 2020, Santos told the Empire State Conservative Podcast that he had been taken to Elmhurst Hospital in an ambulance with COVID-19 symptoms earlier that month after possibly being exposed to the virus during that year’s Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 29. He claimed to have a high fever for several days, body aches, and other symptoms. He also claimed to have been isolated in a plastic bubble with an air filter, because the hospital had “run out of isolation rooms.” 

In that interview, he claimed that his health situation was precarious due to pre-existing medical conditions, including a brain tumor.

“I have an immunodeficiency and I have acute chronic bronchitis. I also battled a brain tumor a couple of years ago, and I had radiation done, which really lowers your immunity in general,” he said in the podcast. “Radiation isn’t a game. I’m susceptible to cancer. It’s in my DNA.”

Sticking to conservative talking points, he also downplayed the severity of the illness during that appearance, likening COVID to influenza, and saying, “They’re calling me a survivor. I don’t know if I really survived anything.”

But Diamond notes that Santos’s campaign only issued a perfunctory press release on the day he tested positive. Additionally, on March 18, four days after Santos claimed to have tested positive and been ill, he appeared on FOX Business, looking healthy, telling the host he was “in recovery” and no longer symptomatic. A month later, during a COVID-19 virtual town hall, Santos claimed to still be suffering from COVID-19.

After President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, Santos made several other media appearances to talk about his own battle with COVID. But in those interviews, Santos described having a much more severe case of COVID, with only Advil to treat his fever.

He also began moving up his COVID diagnosis by a few days, claiming to have tested positive on March 7. Months later, he again moved up the timeline by claiming to have tested positive on March 4, 2020. If true, that would have made Santos among the first handful of New York residents to test positive for the virus.

8. Santos Claimed to Have “Lost” 4 Employees in the Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Santos claimed to have “lost” four employees who were killed in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting — in which 49 people were killed — in an interview with WNYC. After journalists were unable to verify that any of the victims had worked for LinkBridge Investors, the Devolder Association, or any other company associated with Santos, the congressman changed how he framed the issue.

In a subsequent interview conducted by former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), Santos defended his assertion, saying instead that four of the Pulse victims were not employees but were going to start working for his company. No evidence has been found to support that claim.

Additionally, Christine Leinonen, whose son was killed in the Pulse massacre, has accused Santos of lying for political gain, noting that no one employer lost more than two employees in the attack. 

“I’ve gotten to know all of these victims and I was particularly noteworthy of their employers,” Leinonen told WKMG-TV. “If he says, ‘Oh I employed four people who were lost at Pulse’ and then being gay it could be that independent voters or Democrats could lean toward voting for him when they might not have ordinarily done that.”

9. Santos, a Gay Republican, Did Not Disclose that He Was Previously Married to a Woman.

Santos, who made history by becoming the first openly gay Republican to be elected to Congress as a non-incumbent, was previously criticized for failing to disclose that he had been married to a woman, whom he divorced just two weeks prior to launching a failed 2020 bid for Congress against then-incumbent Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi. 

According to The Daily Beast, court records show that a person named “George A. Devolder Santos” married and divorced a woman named Uadla Santos Vieira Santos. The uncontested divorce went through in September 2019.

While being married doesn’t indicate anything about his sexual orientation, the fact that he was married to a woman may contradict claims he’s previously made about never having experienced discrimination in the Republican Party as an out gay man.

In October, when asked about Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Santos indicated he supported the law.

“I am openly gay, have never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade,” Santos told USA Today.

It still remains unclear whether Santos was “out” as gay or bisexual during his marriage, but some critics, pointing to his other fabrications, have alleged that he is again bending the truth in order to play to the GOP base by presenting himself as a gay man who supports laws that critics consider to be anti-LGBTQ but are largely supported by Republicans. 

10. Santos Faces Questions About His Personal and Campaign Finances. 

Santos faces questions about his personal and campaign finances, which have led to two separate investigations into the latter — one by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the other by Anne Donnelly, the Republican district attorney for Nassau County.

Among the irregularities being looked into are allegations that Santos’s campaign sought donations through a group billing itself as an independent expenditure committee called Redstone Strategies, but Redstone does not appear to be registered as a political group, and there are no records of Redstone’s donors, contributions, or spending. 

Another red flag that has raised some eyebrows is that Santos reported on financial disclosure forms that he drew a salary of $750,000 and amassed up to $10 million in dividends between 2021 and 2022. However, when he first ran for Congress in the 2020 cycle, he reported making a salary of only $55,000. 

Beyond questions surrounding his campaign finances, Santos also appears to owe some people money. For example, a man named Peter Hamilton, who met Santos in 2014, told the Times that Santos never paid Hamilton back for several thousand dollars he had lent to Santos to help him move in with his boyfriend. Hamilton filed a case in small claims court in Queens seeking repayment in 2015, with a judge ordering Santos to pay back $5,000 plus interest.

Santos has also been accused by former landlords of failing to pay rent, with at least three eviction lawsuits having been filed against Santos and members of his family in 2014, 2015, and 2017. In the 2017 case, a court ordered Santos to pay more than $12,000 to a landlord who claimed that Santos was behind on rent and had bounced a check. A fourth landlord claims that Santos and his boyfriend moved out of a rowhouse they had been renting from her, leaving the house in disrepair and forcing her to spend $17,000 to repair damages to the property.

His personal financial woes appear not to end there. In 2018, Discover Bank won a default judgment against Santos for $1,927.45 in credit card debt.

Brazilian authorities have previously announced they intend to reopen a criminal fraud case against Santos, stemming from a 2008 incident in which he is accused of spending more than $700 at a small clothing store in Niterói, Brazil, using a stolen checkbook and a false name. The checkbook allegedly belonged to a man for whom Santos’s mother had worked as a housekeeper and in-home nurse. The case eventually suspended after authorities were unable to locate Santos and bring him to trial.

Santos has denied any criminal wrongdoing, and denies the charges against him. Santos’s lawyer, Joe Murray, told the Times that he is currently in the process of speaking with Brazilian authorities to address the alleged criminal complaint.

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