Criminal and ethical investigations focused on the first-term Republican congressman’s massive campaign-trail lies and dubious business activities.
Federal prosecutors in New York have charged Representative George Santos, the New York Republican who has been the subject of numerous inquiries into his personal and campaign finances ever since it was discovered that his biography was a web of lies and exaggerations, according to three people familiar with the investigation.
The accusations follow a lengthy investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, which has been looking into Mr. Santos’s financial and political activities.
It is unclear what specifically Mr. Santos, 34, is accused of. According to CNN, which first the news of the allegations against Mr. Santos, he might show up in federal court as soon as this Wednesday.
Following research by The New York Times last year that revealed Mr. Santos had misled voters about his biography, education, and employment experience and raised concerns about his personal riches and campaign funds, Mr. Santos has come under increasing scrutiny.
An unregistered fund that claimed to be raising significant sums for Mr. Santos’ campaign in apparent violation of campaign finance laws, hundreds of thousands of dollars in enigmatic spending, and an odd string of payments for $199.99, just below the threshold where receipts would be required, are just a few examples of the evidence of possible misconduct that was uncovered through subsequent reporting.
The F.B.I., federal prosecutors, and the Nassau County district attorney’s office are all looking into Mr. Santos’s involvement in helping two of his affluent benefactors buy a $19 million luxury boat. Inquiries have also been conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the work that Mr. Santos performed for the troubled financial institution Harbor City Capital, which the government claimed was a Ponzi scheme.
On Thursday, a hearing will be held in relation to additional allegations that Mr. Santos is facing in Brazil for alleged check fraud.
Requests for comment from Mr. Santos, his attorney, and a spokesperson in his Washington office were not promptly entertained. The U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn could not be reached, and neither the Justice Department nor the F.B.I. would comment.
The congressman has stood by other apparent fabrications and denied any criminal activity, even though Mr. Santos has admitted to fabricating most of his resume and embellishing other claims. Additionally, he has maintained his innocence in regards to inquiries concerning the finances of his campaign, claiming that his campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, is in charge of such filings. On Tuesday night, Ms. Marks’s attorney Ray Perini declined to comment.
Despite rising pressure from various probes and countless requests for his resignation from his House colleagues, Mr. Santos, who was elected in November to represent a district that encompasses portions of Long Island and Queens, has claimed that he will not stand down.
It is yet unclear when any case against Mr. Santos would be heard. However, even if Mr. Santos were found guilty of a felony, he could still hold office in Congress. He wouldn’t be dismissed from his position until two-thirds of the House of Representatives decided to do so.
California’s Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who is in charge of a remarkably slim Republican majority, declared that he would only demand Mr. Santos’ resignation if he was proven guilty.
Mr. McCarthy pointed out that he had already requested the congressman not to sit on any committees, but he insisted that Mr. Santos had a right to defend himself against the allegations just like other legislators who had faced similar accusations in the past.
“We will just follow the same pattern we always have,” he declared.. “If a person is indicted, they are not on committees, they have the right to vote but they have to go to trial.”
“In America, you are innocent until proven guilty,” he added.
However, some of Mr. McCarthy’s Republican colleagues had less forgiving opinions of Mr. Santos. About a dozen Republicans have already joined many Democrats in calling for Mr. Santos to step down. On Tuesday, many of them reiterated their calls for action.
“There’s a clock ticking, and George Santos should have resigned in December,” Representative Marc Molinaro, a Republican of New York, said. “He should have resigned in January. He should have resigned yesterday, and maybe he’ll resign today. But sooner or later, honesty and justice will be delivered.”
On Tuesday night, Mr. Santos abstained from two House votes. According to a person familiar with the office, employees in his Washington office were unexpectedly instructed to leave that evening without explanation and work from home on Wednesday.
Mr. McCarthy has been relying on the findings of the House Ethics Committee’s inquiry to determine Mr. Santos’ future in Congress for months. The committee, made up equally of Democrats and Republicans, has been looking into allegations that Mr. Santos failed to properly complete his financial disclosure forms, broke the law by having a conflict of interest, or participated in other illegal activities while running for office in 2022.
Mr. Santos revealed his intention to run for office last month. “I’m not going anywhere,” he later told a group of Republicans at an event in Washington. “You’re going to have to drag my dead, cold body out of this institution.”