Congressman George Santos Charged with Defrauding Campaign Donors

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New York Representative Faces 23 Criminal Charges

The US Department of Justice has announced 23 criminal charges against New York Representative George Santos, a Republican, for allegedly defrauding his campaign donors and lying to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and House oversight committees.

The charges, which were filed on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, include wire fraud, conspiracy, credit card fraud, money laundering, identity theft, and making false statementsThey build on an earlier indictment in May that accused Santos of laundering campaign funds to pay for his personal expenses and illegally claiming unemployment benefits while he was employed.

Santos has not commented on the new charges, but he previously pleaded not guilty to the initial charges and accused prosecutors of mounting a political “witch hunt” against him.

How Santos Allegedly Stole from His Donors

According to the indictment, Santos devised a scheme to steal the identities and financial information of his campaign donors, which he used to charge their credit cards and cause money to be deposited into his campaign, other campaigns, and his own bank account.

The scheme involved one instance where Santos allegedly stole the billing details of a donor’s two credit cards and made transfers to his campaign. To get around the fact that they exceeded legal limits, prosecutors said, Santos falsely listed himself and relatives as the sources of the funds.

On one occasion, prosecutors said, Santos charged $12,000 to the donor’s credit card – money that mostly ended up in his personal bank account.

The indictment alleges that Santos charged more than $44,000 to his campaign over a period of months using credit cards belonging to contributors who were unaware they were being defrauded.

How Santos Allegedly Deceived the Republican Party

The indictment also alleges that Santos conspired with his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, who pleaded guilty to defrauding the United States last week, to file false reports to the FEC that inflated his campaign’s fundraising so it could deceive the Republican Party into extending financial support.

The deception included false FEC reports that said at least 10 family members of Santos and Marks had made significant contributions to the campaign, as well as false reports that said Santos had loaned large amounts of money to his campaign, including one $500,000 loan.

The indictment claims that Santos falsely reported that his campaign had raised $250,000 from third-party donors in a single quarter, the threshold needed to unlock financial support from the GOP.

What Are the Consequences for Santos?

If convicted of all charges, Santos faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud and money laundering, 10 years for each count of credit card fraud and identity theft, five years for each count of conspiracy and making false statements, and one year for each count of theft of public funds.

Santos also faces potential fines, forfeiture of assets, restitution to victims, and removal from office.

Santos has not indicated any intention to resign his seat or drop his bid for re-election in 2024. He is currently serving his first term in Congress after winning a close race in New York’s 3rd congressional district in 2020. He is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Homeland Security Committee.