WASHINGTON — Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., pleaded not guilty at a Long Island courthouse on Wednesday to a 13-count federal indictment against him that was unsealed by the Department of Justice.
Santos, 34, who surrendered into custody on Wednesday morning, has been charged with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives, according to the DOJ.
He pleaded not guilty during an 11-minute hearing and was released on $500,000 bond. Santos must submit to pretrial services, have random monitoring at his home, surrender his passport, and any travel outside of New York state and Washington, D.C., must be pre-approved by the court.
He’s due in court again on June 30.
Santos, who represents New York’s 3rd Congressional District, is accused of engaging in three schemes in the indictment.
In the first, he defrauded prospective political supporters in September 2022 by enlisting a Queens-based political consultant — described by the DOJ as “Person #1” — to communicate with possible donors on the congressman’s 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 purchasing television advertisements,” the DOJ said.
Two unnamed contributors then each transferred $25,000 to a bank account that Santos controlled. Santos used much of that money for personal expenses, including buying designer clothing, the DOJ alleged.
In the second scheme, Santos engaged in unemployment insurance fraud beginning in 2020 by applying for unemployment benefits that were made available to out-of-work Americans during the pandemic, the DOJ alleged.
He applied for the money despite being employed as the regional director of a Florida-based investment firm, where he earned an annual salary of $120,000, according to the indictment.
Santos claimed falsely that he had been unemployed since March 2020, the DOJ alleged. Between then and April 2021, when Santos was receiving a salary, “He falsely affirmed each week that he was eligible for unemployment benefits when he was not.”
“As a result, Santos allegedly fraudulently received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits,” the DOJ said.
In the third scheme, the congressman mislead the House of Representatives and the public about his financial situation during his two congressional campaigns, the DOJ alleged.
During his first campaign, in May 2020, Santos allegedly overstated income and failed to disclose salary he received from the investment firm, according to the indictment. For his campaign last year, Santos also allegedly overstated his income and assets in financial disclosure documents, including claiming he received a $750,000 salary from his Florida-based company, the Devolder Organization LLC as well as dividends.
“These assertions were false: Santos had not received from the Devolder Organization LLC the reported amounts of salary or dividends and did not maintain checking or savings accounts with deposits in the reported amounts,” the DOJ said.
The DOJ said that if convicted, Santos would face up to 20 years in prison for the top counts. Prosecutors said that the FBI has been investigating the case with assistance from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the IRS.
Santos’ congressional office did not return a request for comment.
Santos announced last month that he‘srunning for re-election next year, despite calls for him to resign and the ongoing investigations he has faced at the federal, state and local levels.
Besides the federal charges, Santos was also recently accused of being the mastermind behind a credit card skimming scheme — which he has vehemently denied. He has also been accused of stealing thousands of dollars that was raised for a lifesaving operation for a veteran’s service dog, as well as lying that his mother was at the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks.
In March, the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation that it said would determine whether Santos “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”
Santos first came under scrutiny after The New York Times published a bombshell investigation in December indicating that much of his résumé appeared to have been manufactured, including claims that he owned numerous properties, was previously employed by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and had graduated from Baruch College.