Republican congressman George Santos is in police custody in the US after he was charged with federal crimes.
The politician handed himself into a New York courtroom after federal prosecutors charged him with a range of crimes, including money laundering and wire fraud. Santos has become a controversial figure in US politics, after he was accused of fabricating information about his biography during his campaign.
The unsealed indictment revealed that Santos has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives and one count of theft of public funds.
US attorney Breon Peace, who brought forward to indictment against Santos, said: "This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations. 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.
Santos was only elected to the House during the 2022 midterm elections, and was only sworn in in January 2023. Weeks after his election, Santos was accused of fabricating much of the information in his self-published biography, including information about his work history and college experience.
The congressman has admitted to some falsehoods about his life, but has backed himself on other claims about his history.
Who is George Santos?
George Santos, 34, is a US politician who represents New York’s 3rd district, which incorporates areas such as Long Island and a section of Queens. He was elected in 2022, having unsuccessfully running for Congress in 2020.
Santos formerly work in businesses throughout New York and Florida. This included working in a role for an alternative investment company in Florida, which was later accused of being a ‘Ponzi’ scheme, although Santos was not named in any of the charges.
What did George Santos lie about?
Reports of Santos’ lies were first unearthed by The New York Times, which claimed that the representative misrepresented many facts in his self-published autobiography. Santos made claims that his maternal grandparents were Ukrainian Jews who had fled to Brazil during the Second World War, however he later told the New York Post: “I never claimed to be Jewish, I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”
He also made an unproven claim that he is mixed race, with an African-American father. Santos has also tweeted in July 2021: “9/11 claimed my mother’s life”. He later stated in an interview that she died in 2021 but had been present “down there” at the World Trade Centre on 9/11.
He claimed to have a link to the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. He claimed in an interview to have lost four employees in the incident, however the Times later found that none of the 49 victims had any links to Santos.
Santos had said that he attended the prepetory Horace Mann School, however the school holds no record of his enrollment. He also claimed to have earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from Baruch College, however further investigation into Santos’ biography showed that he had in fact been in Brazil at the time of the degree.
He would later admit to lying about his education. In December 2022, he told The New York Post: “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my résumé ... we do stupid things in life.”
Santos has also reportedly lied repeatedly about his profession before he entered politics. He has claimed to be a journalist in Brazil for a major news organisation, however any evidence of his writing on the webiste could not be found.
He also claimed to have worked at Wall Street groups Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Both companies have said that they have no record of Santos being employed, while Santos himself later admitted to lying about these Wall Street positions.
The Republican politician had also falsely claimed that he and his family held 13 rental properties in New York. This claim was later corrected by Santos, who told The New York Post that he or his family owned no rental properties as of December 2022.
In their initial report, The New York Times also reported that he had unresolved charged for check fraud in Brazil. Santos has denied this, telling WABC radio: “I’m not a fraud. I’m not a criminal who defrauded the entire country and made up this fictional character and ran for Congress.”
What has been the reaction to the George Santos situation?
As the revelations around Santos began to unfurl, his party remained largely silent about the situation. This included the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as well as Republican representative Majorie Taylor Greene defending her colleague over the lies.
However, some Republicans have called out Santos. His congressional colleague Nick LaLota, who also represents Long Island, has called for an ethics investigation into Santos, while former California Republican chairman Ron Nehring called on him to resign from Congress.
The New York State attorney general’s office has launched an investigation into Santos and his false claims. He is also under investigation from federal prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York, and the Nassau County district attorney.
Santos himself has so far resisted calls for him to resign. He tweeted his sentiment, saying: “I was elected to serve the people of the New York third district not the party and politicians, I remain committed to doing that and regret to hear that local officials refuse to work with my office to deliver results to keep our community safe and lower the cost of living. I will NOT resign!”