US legislator George Santos charged with fraud, money laundering

NEW YORK (Reuters): United States Representative George Santos has been arrested on federal charges of fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds in the latest hit to the newly elected Republican, who has resisted calls to resign for lying about his resume.

The 13-count indictment, unsealed on Wednesday, charged Santos, 34, with defrauding prospective political supporters by laundering funds to pay for his personal expenses and illegally receiving unemployment benefits while he was employed.

He is also accused of making false statements to the House of Representatives about his assets, income and liabilities.

“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,” Breon Peace, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.

“He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives,” Peace said.

Santos’s congressional office referred requests for comment from Reuters to his counsel. A lawyer for Santos did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the news agency about the indictment.

Top House Republicans, who control the chamber by a narrow 222-213 margin, have so far said they would withhold judgement on Santos. Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Wednesday, “In America, you’re innocent until proven guilty.”

Shortly after Santos’s election in 2022 to represent a wealthy area of New York’s Long Island, the New York Times and other media outlets revealed that he had fabricated many aspects of his personal and professional history.

Among other claims, Santos said he had degrees from New York University and Baruch College despite neither institution’s having any record of his attending. He claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, which also was untrue.

He said falsely that he was Jewish and that his grandparents escaped the Nazis during World War II. Santos, who identifies as gay, also failed to disclose that he was married to a woman for several years ending in 2019.

He has since admitted to fabricating large parts of his resume.