Biden DOJ charges GOP Rep. Santos with 13 counts related to multiple alleged 'fraudulent schemes'

 May 10, 2023

There is a perception for some Americans that the Department of Justice is partisan and biased and will move swiftly to indict and prosecute Republicans for alleged crimes while dragging their feet or refusing altogether to pursue charges against Democrats for alleged criminal acts.

That perception was just bolstered this week with the DOJ's announcement of federal criminal charges against freshman Rep. George Santos (R-NY), according to the Washington Examiner.

Santos, who just took office in January following his election in November to represent New York's 3rd Congressional District, had been broadly accused by the media, Democrats, and even some Republicans of dishonestly embellishing his resume and personal background story in order to deceive voters and win his seat in Congress.

Charged with conducting multiple "fraudulent schemes"

The DOJ's Eastern District of New York issued a press release on Wednesday to announce an unsealed 13-count criminal indictment against Rep. Santos that included "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."

The DOJ release outlined three alleged "fraudulent schemes" involving Santos, the first of which occurred during the 2022 campaign and alleged that he had defrauded at least two donors of $25,000 each that was supposed to help fund campaign ads but instead was funneled through a Santos-owned company into his personal bank accounts to be used for various personal expenses.

The second alleged scheme occurred in 2020/2021 and involved pandemic-related unemployment insurance fraud, in that Santos allegedly applied for and received more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits from New York state even though he was actually employed at that time with an investment firm based in Florida.

The third alleged scheme involved multiple false and misleading financial statements filed as a candidate with the House of Representatives during his failed 2020 and successful 2022 congressional runs and include allegations that Santos overstated the amount of income received from one particular source while understating or failing to disclose altogether income received from other sources.

Could face maximum sentence of 20 years for most serious charges

"This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations," U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. "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."

"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," the federal prosecutor added. "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 constituents who elected them."

Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said, "At the height of the pandemic in 2020, George Santos allegedly applied for and received unemployment benefits while he was employed and running for Congress. As charged in the indictment, the defendant’s alleged behavior continued during his second run for Congress when he pocketed campaign contributions and used that money to pay down personal debts and buy designer clothing."

The DOJ release noted that, if convicted, Santos could face a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison for the most serious charges, though sentencing would be left to the discretion of a federal district judge in conjunction with certain sentencing guidelines and relevant statutes.

Pleaded not guilty; facing multiple other investigations

NBC News reported that Rep. Santos surrendered to authorities Wednesday morning and was arraigned before a federal judge in a New York courtroom, where he pleaded not guilty to all counts and was subsequently released on a $500,000 bond, with certain restrictions, ahead of a next court date scheduled for June 30.

Santos, who has steadfastly resisted calls for his resignation and had already launched his 2024 re-election campaign last month, is also facing other criminal investigations at the state and local levels involving allegations of a credit card skimming operation and theft of funds from a veteran's charity, among other things.

Furthermore, he is the subject of a probe launched in March by the House Ethics Committee with regard to allegations that he "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."

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