Eastern District of New York | Congressman George Santos is accused of fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements

CENTRAL ISLIP, NY – A 13-count indictment was unsealed today in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York charging George Anthony Devolder Santos, better known as “George Santos,” a United States Congressman representing the Third District of New York York, on seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making material false statements to the House of Representatives.

The indictment was returned under seal yesterday by a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip, New York. Santos was arrested this morning and will be arraigned this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Arlene R. Lindsay in federal court in Central Islip, New York.

Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Kenneth A. Pollitt, Jr., Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Office (FBI), and Ann T. Donnelly, District Attorney, Nassau County, announced the charges.

“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and gross misrepresentations,” United States Attorney Peace said. “Taken together, the allegations in the indictment accuse Santos of relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend the halls of Congress and enrich himself.” He used political donations to line his pockets, illegally applied for unemployment benefits that were supposed to go to New Yorkers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives. My office and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively root out corruption and self-dealing from our community’s public institutions and hold public officials accountable to the voters who elected them.”

“The Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section is committed to rooting out fraud and corruption, particularly when perpetrated by our elected officials,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Pollitt, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Santos allegedly engaged in criminal conduct designed to defraud and defraud the American public. As this indictment states, the Department of Justice will prosecute anyone who engages in such criminality.

“As today’s enforcement action demonstrates, the FBI remains committed to holding everyone equally accountable under the law. As we have argued, Congressman Santos has committed federal crimes and will now be forced to face the consequences of his actions. I would like to commend the diligent efforts of the investigative and prosecutorial teams in this matter,” said Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director.

“At the height of the 2020 pandemic, George Santos claimed to have applied for and received unemployment benefits while employed and running for Congress,” District Attorney Donnelly said. “As charged in the indictment, the defendant’s alleged conduct continued during his second run for Congress, when he collected campaign contributions and used that money to pay personal debts and buy designer clothing.” This indictment is the result of continued law enforcement cooperation, and I thank our partners at the United States Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their dedication to rooting out public corruption.

Mr. Peace also thanked the US Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, New York State Department of Labor (NYS DOL) and the Queens District Attorney’s Office for their assistance.

Santos, who was elected to Congress last November and sworn in as a U.S. representative for New York’s third congressional district on January 7, 2023, engaged in multiple fraudulent schemes, the indictment alleges.

Fraudulent scheme to attract political donations

In early September 2022, during his successful campaign for Congress, Santos operated a limited liability company (Company #1) through which he allegedly defrauded prospective political supporters. Santos engaged a Queens-based political consultant (Person #1) to communicate with prospective donors on Santos’ behalf. Santos allegedly directed Person #1 to falsely tell donors that, among other things, their money would be used to help elect Santos to the House, including by buying television ads. Relying on these false statements, two donors (Associate #1 and Associate #2) each transferred $25,000 to the bank account of Company #1, which Santos controlled.

As the indictment alleges, shortly after the funds were received in Company #1’s bank account, the money was transferred to Santos’ personal bank accounts – in one case laundered through two of Santos’ personal accounts. Santos then allegedly used much of that money for personal expenses. Among other things, Santos allegedly used the funds to make personal purchases (including designer clothing), withdraw cash, discharge personal debts and transfer money to his associates.

Unemployment Insurance Fraud Scheme

Beginning in approximately February 2020, Santos was assigned as a regional director of a Florida-based investment firm (Investment Firm #1), where he received an annual salary of approximately $120,000. By the end of March 2020, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, new legislation was signed into law that provides additional federal funding to help unemployed Americans during the pandemic.

In mid-June 2020, despite being employed and ineligible for unemployment benefits, Santos applied for government assistance through the New York State Department of Labor, claiming that he had been unemployed since March 2020. Since then until April 2021 when Santos was working and getting paid almost continuously and during his failed run for Congress – he falsely claimed every week that he was eligible for unemployment benefits when he wasn’t. As a result, Santos allegedly received over $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits.

False statements to the House of Representatives

Finally, the indictment details Santos’ alleged efforts to mislead the House of Representatives and the public about his financial status in connection with each of his two congressional campaigns.

Santos, like all House candidates, was legally required to file with the Secretary of the House of Representatives a financial disclosure statement (House Disclosures) before each election. In each of his House Disclosures, Santos was personally required to provide a full and complete accounting of his assets, income and liabilities, among other things. He certified that the house’s disclosures were true, complete and correct.

In May 2020, in connection with his first campaign for election to the House of Representatives, Santos filed two disclosures in the House alleging that he falsely certified that during the reporting period his only earned income consisted of salary, commission and bonuses totaling $55,000 from another company (Company #2), and that the only compensation in excess of $5,000 he received from a single source was an unspecified commission bonus from Company #2. In fact, Santos allegedly overstated the income he received from Company #2 and failed to disclose the salary he received from Investment Broker #1 at all.

In September 2022, in connection with his second House election campaign, Santos filed another House Disclosure Statement alleging that he overstated his income and assets. In this House Disclosure, he falsely certified that during the reporting period:

  • He earned a $750,000 salary from Devolder Organization LLC, a Florida-based entity of which Santos is the sole beneficial owner;
  • He received between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000 in dividends from Devolder Organization LLC;
  • He had a checking account with deposits between $100,001 and $250,000; and
  • He had a savings account with deposits between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000.

As alleged in the indictment, these allegations are false: Santos did not receive from Devolder Organization LLC the reported amounts of salary or dividends and did not maintain checking or savings accounts with deposits in the reported amounts. Santos also allegedly failed to disclose that in 2021 he received approximately $28,000 in income from Investment Broker #1 and more than $20,000 in unemployment insurance benefits from the NYS Department of the Treasury.

The charges in the indictment are mere allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted of the charges, Santos faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the main counts. A federal district court judge will determine each sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI is investigating the case with assistance from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the IRS Office of Criminal Investigation.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Integrity Unit, the Long Island Criminal Division and the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Unit. Assistant United States Lawyers Ryan Harris, Anthony Bagnuola and Laura Zuckerwise, along with attorneys Jolee Porter and Jacob Steiner, are prosecuting with the assistance of paralegal Rachel Friedman. Senior Trial Counsel Victor R. Salgado of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section made significant contributions to the prosecution.

The Defendant:

Age: 34
Washington, DC

EDNY Doc no 23-CR-197

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