Congressman George Santos Charged in Campaign Finance Fraud Scheme
A federal grand jury in Central Islip, New York, returned a superseding indictment today charging George Anthony Devolder Santos (George Santos), 35, a U.S. Congressman representing the Third District of New York, with one count of conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of making materially false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), two counts of falsification of records submitted to the FEC, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of access device fraud. Santos was previously charged with an additional 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 U.S. House of Representatives in the original indictment.
According to court documents, Santos, who was elected to Congress last November and sworn in as the U.S. Representative for New York’s Third Congressional District on Jan. 7, engaged in two fraudulent schemes, in addition to the multiple fraudulent schemes alleged in the original indictment.
The Party Program Scheme
According to the allegations in today’s superseding indictment, during the 2022 election cycle, Santos was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in New York’s Third Congressional District. Nancy Marks was the treasurer for his principal congressional campaign committee. During that election cycle, Santos and Marks allegedly devised and executed a fraudulent scheme to obtain money for the campaign by submitting materially false reports to the FEC on behalf of the campaign, in which Santos and Marks inflated the campaign’s fundraising numbers for the purpose of misleading the FEC, a national party committee, and the public.
Specifically, the purpose of the scheme was to ensure that Santos and his campaign qualified for a program that the national party committee administered, pursuant to which the national party committee would provide financial and logistical support to Santos and his campaign committee. To qualify for the program, Santos had to demonstrate, among other things, that his congressional campaign had raised at least $250,000 from third-party contributors in a single quarter.
To create the public appearance that his campaign had met that financial benchmark and was otherwise financially viable, Santos and Marks allegedly agreed to falsely report to the FEC that at least 10 family members of Santos and Marks had made significant financial contributions to the campaign, when Santos and Marks both knew that these individuals had neither made the reported contributions nor given authorization for their personal information to be included in such false public reports. In addition, understanding that the national party committee relied on FEC fundraising data to evaluate candidates’ qualification for the program, Santos and Marks allegedly agreed to falsely report to the FEC that Santos had loaned the campaign significant sums of money, including in one instance a $500,000 loan, when, in fact, Santos had not made the reported loans and, at the time the loans were reported, did not have the funds necessary to make such loans.
Through the execution of this scheme, Santos and Marks ensured that Santos met the necessary financial benchmarks to qualify for the program that the national party committee administered. As a result of qualifying for the program, the congressional campaign received financial support.
The Credit Card Fraud Scheme
As alleged in the superseding indictment, between approximately December 2021 and August 2022, Santos devised and executed a fraudulent scheme to steal the personal identity and financial information of contributors to his campaign. He then allegedly charged contributors’ credit cards repeatedly, without their authorization. Because of these unauthorized transactions, funds were transferred to Santos’ campaign, to the campaigns of other candidates for elected office, and to his own bank account. To conceal the true source of these funds and to circumvent campaign contribution limits, Santos falsely represented that some of the campaign contributions were made by other persons, such as his relatives or associates or other contributors, rather than the true cardholders. Santos did not have authorization to use the cardholders’ names in this way.
For example, in December 2021, one contributor (the contributor) texted Santos and others to make a contribution to his campaign, providing billing information for two credit cards. In the days after he received the billing information, Santos allegedly used the credit card information to make numerous contributions to his campaign and affiliated political committees in amounts exceeding applicable contribution limits, without the contributor’s knowledge or authorization. To mask the true source of these contributions and thereby circumvent the applicable campaign contribution limits, Santos falsely identified the contributor for one of the charges as one of his relatives. In the following months, Santos allegedly repeatedly charged the contributor’s credit card without the contributor’s knowledge or authorization, attempting to make at least $44,800 in charges and repeatedly concealing the true source of funds by falsely listing the source of funds as Santos himself, his relatives, and other contributors. On one occasion, Santos charged $12,000 to the contributor’s credit card, ultimately transferring the vast majority of that money into Santos’s own personal bank account.
The case is currently scheduled for a status conference before Judge Seybert on Oct. 27. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft counts and a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the other counts. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge James Smith of the FBI New York Field Office, and Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly made the announcement.
The FBI is investigating the case, with assistance from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.
Trial Attorneys Jacob Steiner and John Taddei of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Harris, Anthony Bagnuola, and Laura Zuckerwise for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Rachel Friedman. Former Trial Attorney Jolee Porter of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section provided substantial contributions to the prosecution.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.