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George Santos arrested in New York after surrendering himself to authorities

The New York Republican had been accused of a litany of lies during his congressional campaign

Richard Hall,Ariana Baio
Wednesday 10 May 2023 21:46 BST
George Santos: The imposter in Congress | On The Ground
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George Santos has been arrested after surrendering himself to authorities at a federal court on Long Island on Wednesday morning.

The congressman for New York’s third district, who won his election after a campaign that was littered with lies about his past, was arrested shortly after 9am. He slipped past dozens of reporters to enter via a backdoor of the building.

The indictment, which was unsealed on Wednesday, alleges a series of fraudulent schemes over several years. Mr Santos has been charged 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 House of Representatives.

“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,” Breon Peace, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

The arrest represents a rapid rise and fall for a man his own constituents decried as an “imposter,” but whom national Republicans utilised in order to bolster their narrow majority in the House.

In the 13-count indictment, federal prosecutors accused Mr Santos of lying on financial disclosure forms he filed to the House when he became a candidate, first by overstating his income from one job and failing to disclose income from another, and secondly by lying about his earnings from his company, the Devolder Organization.

Prosecutors also allege that Mr Santos fraudulently used donations to his political campaign for his own benefit, spending “thousands of dollars of the solicited funds on personal expenses, including luxury designer clothing and credit card payments.”

The indictment alleges that Mr Santos’s fraud began before his successful run for Congress, accusing him of running an unemployment insurance fraud scheme in which he applied for government assistance in New York while still employed by a Florida-based investment firm.

The sweeping charges follow a steady drumbeat of revelations about Mr Santos in the press dating back to his campaign.

Mr Santos was elected to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District in November 2022, defeating Democrat Robert Zimmerman by a margin of 54 per cent to 46 per cent. Soon after that victory, it emerged that Mr Santos had lied about much of his personal history and work experience.

A New York Times investigation found that he had lied about working for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, lied about the college he attended, fabricated an animal charity, that the company from which he had earned a salary of $750,000 and dividends of $1m did not have any online presence, lied about saying he lost four employees in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, and that he faced criminal charges in Brazil for cheque fraud.

The revelations set off a firestorm in his district. A local pressure group started by local citizens was formed with the aim of forcing Mr Santos from office. Concerned Citizens of NY03 held regular protests outside his campaign office and called on Republican leaders to expel him from Congress.

Many local Republicans had already called for Mr Santos to resign, but their colleagues in the House of Representatives have been more reluctant.

Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy — the person with the power to call the vote — refused to do so, instead leaving his fate to the House Ethics Committee.

Reacting to news that charges were imminent on Tuesday, Mr McCarthy signalled that Mr Santos would be allowed to continue serving in Congress.

“I’ll look at the charges,” he told reporters. “If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees. They have the right to vote, but they have to go to trial.”

But some national Republican figures are now calling for Mr Santos to go. Arkansas Republican Steve Womack told CNN that Mr Santos should “absolutely” resign. “We don’t need these distractions. That’s the unfortunate thing,” he said.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also called for Mr Santos to leave congress.

“He should have resigned a long time ago. He’s an embarrassment to our party, he’s an embarrassment to the … Congress,” he told CNN.

On Wednesday, Concerned Citizens of NY03 renewed their call for Mr McCarthy to expel Mr Santos.

“The world has known for months that Santos is a liar, an imposter, a criminal. The only thing we didn’t know was which of his many crimes would be prosecuted first. It’s beyond time for Speaker Kevin McCarthy to withdraw his support for Santos and show him the door,” the group said in a statement

Since Mr Santos was sworn into office in January, revelations about his past have continued to emerge. The most recent report found that Mr Santos was charged with writing bad checks to purchase puppies from Amish farmers in 2017. That case was dismissed after Mr Santos claimed his checkbook had been stolen, and that someone else had taken the dogs.

Mr Santos, 34, has apologised for what he described as “résumé embellishment,” but has refused to resign.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Santos’s office and his legal team.

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