Metro Weekly

George Santos Charged with Credit Card Fraud, Identity Theft

Prosecutors filed 10 additional charges, accusing embattled gay Republican of ringing up charges on donors' credit cards to enrich himself.

George Santos – Photo: Instagram

U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), the sole openly gay Republican serving in Congress, is under investigation for his financial dealings.

He has now been accused of additional crimes, including credit card fraud and identity theft, after a superseding indictment against the embattled congressman was made public on Tuesday.

Santos was previously charged in May 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 U.S. House of Representatives.

Prosecutors alleged, at the time, that Santos had used funds earmarked for campaign expenses on designer clothes and other personal expenses and had improperly obtained unemployment benefits intended for Americans who lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. 

Santos pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and was released on bail.

House Democrats tried to force a vote to expel Santos from the U.S. House of Representatives, but the Republican majority sidestepped by arguing that the House Ethics Committee should be allowed to complete its investigation into alleged campaign finance violations and conflict of interest laws.

Tuesday’s indictment, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, increases the number of charges against Santos to 23 and replaces the May indictment.

In the new indictment, on top of the 13 existing charges, Santos faces an additional charge of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of making materially false statements to the Federal Election Commission, two counts of falsifying records submitted to obstruct the FEC, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of access device fraud, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Santos is accused of stealing the identities of donors to his campaign and using their credit cards to ring up tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges before wiring some of the money to his own personal bank account and using the remainder to pad his campaign coffers.

On one occasion, Santos allegedly charged $12,000 to a contributor’s credit card and transferred the “vast majority” of that money into his personal bank account.

Prosecutors allege that, in an effort to conceal the source of the campaign contributions, he falsely claimed that some of the donations had come from other people, including relatives and associates, rather than the true cardholders.

Santos reportedly did not have authorization to use his relatives’ or associates’ names as part of this scheme.

According to the updated indictment, Santos allegedly conspired with Nancy Marks, the treasurer for his principal campaign committee, to devise a scheme to obtain money for the campaign by misleading Republican Party officials about the campaign’s viability and ability to raise money.

As part of the scheme, Santos and Marks allegedly sought to inflate their campaign’s fundraising numbers to mislead GOP officials into believing the campaign qualified for a program, administered by the national party committee, in which the committee would provide financial and logistical support to viable campaigns.

To demonstrate that financial viability, Santos and Marks allegedly filed false reports with the FEC claiming that at least ten family members of both Santos and Marks had made significant financial contributions to the campaign, when, in fact, no such contributions had been made.

Santos and Marks also allegedly schemed to falsely report to the Federal Elections Commission that he loaned his campaign $500,000, when, in fact, he hadn’t given anything and had less than $8,000 in his personal and business bank accounts.

By making this false claim to the FEC — which the Republican Party would rely on when considering whether candidates qualified for the program — they hoped to dupe the party into believing they met the necessary threshold to receive financial support.

Marks, a longtime Long Island political bookkeeper, pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge last week, telling a judge that she helped her former boss mislead prospective donors and Republican party officials by submitting bogus campaign finance reports.

While Santos was not initially charged in the complaint against Marks, he was identified in court papers as a “co-conspirator,” according to The Associated Press.

Santos declined to comment on the superseding indictment, which could result in a longer prison sentence if convicted. He continues to resist calls to resign from office and has previously characterized the charges against him as a “witch-hunt.”

He has also blamed Marks for questions about his campaign’s financial irregularities, claiming she “went rogue,” according to AP.

Santos’s financial dealings came under scrutiny after he admitted to fabricating parts of his biography, allegedly misleading voters about his work experience, educational record, Jewish heritage, charitable work, real estate holdings, and even his family’s connections to the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The congressman previously faced charges in Brazil in which he allegedly used two stolen checks to purchase items at a high-priced clothing store back in 2008, but signed an agreement in May with Brazilian prosecutors, who agreed not to pursue the criminal charges against him.

In 2017, Santos was charged with criminal theft in Pennsylvania in connection with bad checks used to buy puppies from dog breeders. The puppies were later sold for hundreds of dollars as part of an adoption event at a pet store in New York City that was sponsored by an animal charity that Santos claimed to have founded. The theft charge was later expunged after Santos claimed that the checks were written from a checkbook that had been stolen from him.

A fundraiser for Santos, Sam Miele, was previously indicted on federal charges that he impersonated a high-ranking congressional aide while soliciting contributions for the Santos’s campaign.

Prosecutors in that case allege that Miele, 27, impersonated Dan Meyer, the former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. and former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, by setting up a dummy email address resembling the Meyer’s name. 

Miele’s attorney, Kevin Marino, previously told CNBC that his client was “not guilty” and looked forward to being exonerated at trial. 

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