New York Republican congressman George Santos has been accused of organizing an ATM fraud scheme by a former roommate and Brazilian national who was convicted of the crime.
Gustavo Trelha was deported following his 2017 conviction for skimming credit cards in Seattle.
In a sworn declaration to the FBI, Secret Service and New York prosecutors, Trelha said he decided to come forward after he saw Santos in the news.
It’s the latest scandal to engulf Santos, who has been under intense media scrutiny ever since he was found to have fabricated large parts of his campaign biography.
Santos faces new accusation
Ties between Santos and Trelha were first reported by CBS, which found that Santos had been interviewed by the Secret Service in 2017 about an international credit card fraud operation. Santos surrendered two cell phones, but he was not considered a suspect and was never charged.
In court documents, authorities described the scheme as “sophisticated.” Trelha told investigators he was paid $100 a day by a group based in Brazil and Florida to skim credit cards and upload the information to a cloud service.
But in his sworn declaration dated March 7, Trelha described the plot as a two-man show in which the proceeds were to be split 50-50 between himself and Santos, a U.S. citizen whose parents emigrated from Brazil.
Trelha alleges that Santos taught him how to skim credit cards while the two were sharing an apartment in Florida. Santos allegedly had a warehouse filled with equipment for the task.
“He had a lot of material — parts, printers, blank ATM and credit cards to be painted and engraved with stolen account and personal information,” Trelha wrote.
Man says Santos coerced him
Trelha said he flew to Seattle, where he pursued his crime spree. After he got caught, he says Santos visited him in jail and warned him to keep quiet.
“Santos threatened my friends in Florida that I must not say that he was my boss,” he wrote.
He did not implicate Santos at the time because he feared Santos would have his friends deported, Trelha told Politico.
Santos told the judge at Trelha’s bail hearing that he was a “family friend” and that he worked for Goldman Sachs, a notorious fib Santos would repeat to voters in his successful congressional campaign last year.
The impish first-term Republican has defied pressure to resign, even as he faces a litany of investigations into his finances.