George Santos: Every lie disgraced Republican Congressman has been accused of making

The New York Republican has been charged with 13 federal criminal charges by Justice Department

John Bowden
Washington DC
Wednesday 10 May 2023 15:24 BST
Tulsi Gabbard confronts George Santos over his multiple falsehoods

It can be difficult keeping up with the list of fictions that George Santos has been accused of telling, admitted telling, or merely been caught spinning red-handed following a contradictory statement.

But, do not fret: The Independent is here, and we’re keeping track of the whole list of lies even as it continues to grow — both in number and in the sheer scale of the humiliation that it presents for not just Mr Santos, who remains adamant that he will serve two years in office as representative for New York’s third district, but for the Republican House caucus as a whole.

For months now, home state Republicans and Democrats alike called for his resignation from Congress while major conservative groups vowed not to work with him.

Still, he found a niche for himself among the GOP’s far-right Maga caucus, among fellows like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz.

On Wednesday 11 January, New York Republicans called on Mr Santos to resign, saying that he “disgraced the House of Representatives”. Mr Santos, meanwhile, held firm, telling reporters that he “will not” step down.

Then, on 31 January, Mr Santos announced he was stepping down from his committee assignments following a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

On 2 March, the House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating Mr Santos.

But, things really took a turn on 9 May, when Mr Santos was arrested and hit with 13 federal charges from the Justice Department.

The embattled congressman was 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.

He was arrested after surrendering to authorities at a federal court on Long Island the following morning (10 May).

So, with scrutiny continuing to mount on Mr Santos, let’s dive in to every fabrication, fiction, lie, mistruth, and “embellishment” that he has admitted to telling or been caught spreading by journalists and others (so far):

He went to college

Our first one, and one of the primary batch of lies uncovered by The New York Times and other news outlets, is Mr Santos’s claim that he obtained degrees from NYU and Baruch College, another New York City-based school.

As it turns out, not only did he not graduate from either school, officials at both said there was no record of him attending under any alias. Mr Santos has now admitted this, chalking it up to the effort to make his resume more impressive.

He went to prep school

Mr Santos claimed in a campaign biography during his failed 2020 bid for Congress (in the same district) that he had briefly attended a prestigious prep school in New York.

“He began Horace Mann preparatory school in the Bronx, however, did not graduate from Horace Mann due to financial difficulties for his family,” read the biography.

As you might expect, Horace Mann officials said there was no record of him ever attending. Mr Santos has not responded to discovery of this apparent fabrication.

He worked at banks

Another from the initial dispatch: Mr Santos did not, as it turns out, work at either Citigroup or Goldman Sachs. He has now admitted that this too was a fiction: Instead, he claims to have worked for the two banks through a third company, though he has provided no evidence to back that claim up.

What we do know is that an investment firm he founded in May of 2021 came into sudden wealth, bringing in millions of dollars to the degreeless Mr Santos, whose employment history remains murky. He has yet to explain how this firm he founded (and shut down in 2022 after failing to file paperwork) operated or made its millions in such a short period — or how he made his connections in the industry at all.

He ran a charity

The political newcomer claimed not only to be an ex-banker but also a lover of animals: Mr Santos previously claimed to have founded a charity group called Friends of Pets United, taking credit for supposedly saving thousands of dogs and cats. But no IRS records of the group could be found, and Mr Santos himself even backed away from the claim that he founded the group, later telling reporters that he only campaigned for the group and tried to find foster homes for some animals.

It’s clear that the charity existed in some form — what is far less clear is whether it was done by the books, what Mr Santos’s real role was, and even whether it actually helped animals at all. An Amish dog breeder recently identified Mr Santos as the man who purchased two puppies from him with a bad check; the reason for the purchase was unclear, but at the time the group was supposedly “rehoming” puppies and dogs.

He’s Jewish, and his grandparents fled the Holocaust

It’s becoming almost impossible to count every time Mr Santos has been accused of telling various audiences that he is Jewish. The Republican Jewish Coalition says that he represented himself to them as Jewish, and he has made public comments to that effect in interviews. Then there was the position paper uncovered by Axios in which he simply refers to himself as an “American Jew”, removing all doubt as to what he said.

Nevertheless, in a recent interview with Fox News he insisted that he had not lied, and in fact only referred to himself as “Jew-ish” — an explanation that sounded like it was ripped straight from a Weekend Update joke.

Not only has he come clean about actually being Catholic, genealogists contacted by The Forward said that there was no evidence to prove his other past claims on the issue; namely, that his grandparents on his mother’s side escaped the Holocaust. They were born in Brazil.

He knew victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting

Among many other claims, Mr Santos told WNYC last year that he personally had “lost” four of his employees at the tragedy at Pulse nightclub in 2016.

It was later determined by news reports that no one on the list of those killed in the mass shooting were identifiable as being employees of any business owned by Mr Santos.

The congressman then changed his story to say that well, actually, they hadn’t been officially hired yet — the four unnamed persons were supposedly all new employees.

There’s no evidence of that, either.

He owns real estate

During the 2020 campaign, Mr Santos told voters that he owned more than a dozen rental properties across the state of New York. Turns out, that’s not true: He told City & State New York that he actually “does not own any properties” at all. Some may be owned by his family, but he only at the most had use of them.

His mother died twice

This one easily takes the crown for “most bizarre” lie told so far. In one tweet uncovered Wednesday by reporters, Mr Santos claimed that his mother had died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York.

Then he sent another tweet, five months later. In that message, his mother had a new time of death: 23 December, 2016.

While Mr Santos has not admitted to this fib or addressed it publicly, it is reasonably safe to say that his mother did not come back from the dead.

Some have pointed out that it is possible Mr Santos could have been referring to his mother contracting cancer or another disease resulting from the fallout from the towers’ destruction. However, a review of her employment history found no signs of her ever working or living anywhere near Ground Zero. A review of her immigration history would further reveal she was not even in the country when the attack occurred.

His apartment was robbed

In a sworn statement in housing court in 2016, Mr Santos claimed he was mugged on his way to pay hundreds of dollars in back rent to his Queens landlord during an eviction case. The New York City Police Department has no record of any such attack.

A report from New York outlet Gothamist revealed that Mr Santos wrote that he was mugged on his way to deliver a rent cheque to Queens Housing Court on 15 January 2016 in an effort to resolve his case.

The Republican wrote that he was “unable to provide a police report” and was told to return to police several days later to pick one up, according to an affidavit that was filled out under oath.

Mr Santos was set to pay $2,250 in back rent for his Queens apartment.

A spokesperson for NYPD told the outlet there was nothing on file related to Mr Santos’s claims.

He goes by George Santos

This one doesn’t count as a lie, but it’s still worth mentioning in this long list of fibs.

Mr Santos as recently as 2019 was introducing himself publicly and privately as “Anthony Devolder”, which appears to be his middle name — George Anthony Santos — as well as his mother’s maiden name, Devolder.

He even “hated” that his friends would sometimes refer to him as George, according to The Washington Post, and “insisted on being called Anthony” by his friends and others.

“His whole family called him Anthony. He wanted to be called Anthony. He would use the name Anthony Devolder,” said that former acquaintance, described as an ex-friend and coworker.

He may have performed as a drag queen in Brazil

Mr Santos has most recently been accused of having performed as a drag queen named “Kitara Ravache” in Brazil more than a decade ago.

The allegation came from Brazilian drag professional Eula Rochard, 58, who reportedly recognised him on TV following his elevation to the House of Representatives, excitedly told her friends and then reacted to their disbelief by digging out an old photograph she insists shows the pair of them together in costume, posting it on Instagram.

“He’s changed a lot, but he was always a liar,” Ms Rochard told Reuters. “He was always such a dreamer.”

Mr Santos first emphatically denied her story on Twitter, writing: “The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false. The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life while I am working to deliver results. I will not be distracted nor fazed by this.”

But, as you’d expect, that wasn’t the whole story. A Politico investigation found that a user on Wikipedia named “Anthony Devolder” (one of Mr Santos’s aliases) claimed to have participated in drag shows in Brazil as a teenager.

Mr Santos later changed his tuned to claim that he had dressed in drag at just one festival, quipping, “Sue me.”

He may have been the ‘mastermind of a credit card skimming scam’

A man convicted of a credit card skimming fraud and deported to Brazil reportedly told federal authorities that Mr Santos was the mastermind of the scheme.

“I am coming forward today to declare that the person in charge of the crime of credit card fraud when I was arrested was George Santos / Anthony Devolder,” Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha wrote in a declaration obtained by Politico. The outlet reported that the letter was sent by express mail and email to the FBI, the US Secret Service office in New York, and the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, by Trelha’s attorney Mark Demetropoulos.

Trelha claimed Mr Santos directed the scheme in Seattle in 2017 wherein they would clone cards and siphon money from the linked accounts.

“Santos taught me how to skim card information and how to clone cards. He gave me all the materials and taught me how to put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines,” Trelha wrote in his statement.

Trelha claimed Mr Santos visited him in jail in Seattle after his arrest and threatened him not to reveal his part in the scheme to authorities.

“We used a computer to be able to download the information on the pieces,” Trelha wrote in his declaration. “We also used an external hard drive to save the filming, because the skimmer took the information from the card, and the camera took the password.”

“It didn’t work out so well, because I was arrested,” he wrote.

Responding to the allegations on Capitol Hill on Friday, Mr Santos told reporters that he was “innocent”.

He added that he “never did anything of criminal activity, and I have no mastermind event”.

“I cooperated with Secret Service, FBI, everybody that asked for my help. Got information for them. Got everybody arrested and deported,” Mr Santos said, according to CNN.

He rejected that he and Trelha were roommates and said he only met him “a couple of times in my life”.

A recording obtained by the network shows that Mr Santos appeared in court in 2017 at the bail hearing of Trelha, calling him a “family friend”. At that same hearing, Mr Santos falsely told the judge he worked at Goldman Sachs.

Alex Woodward, Abe Asher, and Gustaf Kilander contributed to this report

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