Rep. George Santos pleads not guilty to fraud, money laundering
Santos denies all 13 charges and was released on a $500,000 bond.
Most famous for lying about his past and his campaign finances, Republican Congressman George Santos on Wednesday pleaded not guilty in federal court in New York to multiple charges of fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements.
Santos denied all 13 charges and was released on a $500,000 bond. However, US magistrate judge Arlene Lindsay ordered the Congressman to hand in his passport and to give notice for any travel outside Long Island, New York City, and Washington DC.
Following his court appearance, Santos slammed the criminal case as a conspiracy aimed at damaging him politically, saying, "It’s a witch-hunt."
"I’m going to fight my battle, I’m going to fight the witch-hunt, I’m going to take care of clearing my name," he added.
The Republican congressman's next court appearance is scheduled for June 30.
The indictment, which was released Wednesday morning, included seven charges of wire fraud, three of money laundering, one of stealing public money, and two of presenting materially false claims in financial reports to the House of Representatives.
The US attorney’s office for the eastern district of New York highlighted that Santos faces a maximum sentence of 20 years on the top count. This will not force him to give up his position, though as per House rules, lawmakers condemned to at least two years in prison are barred from voting or serving on committees.
US Attorney Breon Peace indicated that "the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself."
According to the charge documents, the indictment included three alleged fraudulent schemes, the most significant of which was a political fundraising plan in which Santos and an unidentified Queens-based consultant convinced donors to provide money used to pay for luxury items and personal debts.
The second scheme involves unemployment benefits fraud during the Covid pandemic when Santos collected around $20,000 in government aid despite working and earning a $120,000 income through a Florida-registered investment firm.
The third scheme that the document highlighted involves Santos deceiving the House about his financial condition by overstating a source of income without reporting his salary in May 2020, during his failed, first bid for Congress, and then making false claims in September 2022, during his successful run.
Prosecutors said Santos falsely declared a $750,000 income and between $1 million and $5 million in profits from his firm, the Devolder Organization, as well as $100,000 to $250,000 in a bank account and between $1 million and $5 million in savings.
Santos has successfully avoided significant political consequences for his widespread dishonesty to voters and the government, owing to the Republicans' House majority and support from US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
He has categorically denied any misconduct and has resolutely refused to resign, despite mounting pressure from Republicans and Democrats alike.
The inconsistencies in Santos' filings, as reported by media sources, were plain to see: 1,200 payments of $199.99, or two cents less than the amount for which receipts would be necessary, were made to an unregistered fund that helped Santos generate a significant amount of money and about $40,000 for travel.
Santos said he loaned more than $750,000 to his campaign and political action organizations, but it was unclear how he could have amassed such cash while struggling to pay rent and facing eviction.
Read more: Santos accused of sexual harassment by prospective staffer