George Santos controversy: Here’s a look at investigations of the new House Republican

Written by on January 21, 2023

NEW YORK – Newly elected Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., is facing a host of questions: He’s accused of faking his résumé and the circumstances of his mother’s death along with having questionable campaign finances reporting and allegations of pilfering from a fundraising campaign for a dying dog, among other things.

He has acknowledged embellishing his educational background and job history, but has denied most of the other allegations, even as he was sworn in for his new House post this month.

The allegations have sparked multiple demands for his resignation, as well as at least two investigations and calls for additional probes. Santos, 34, has repeatedly said he will not resign. Here’s a summary of the investigations and reviews.

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., waits for the start of a session in the House chamber as the House meets for the fourth day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ORG XMIT: DCAB169

State investigations

Santos’ district includes a portion of northern Nassau County, N.Y., on Long Island, as well as part of Queens, New York City’s eastern borough. Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly, a Republican, announced that her office would investigate Santos after he publicly acknowledged having embellished his résumé.

“The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated with Congressman-Elect Santos are nothing short of stunning. The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the Third (Congressional) District must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” Donnelly said in a statement issued by her office in late December. 

“No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it,” Donnelly concluded.

Her office provided no details of the investigation, leaving it unclear what potential crimes could be under review.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ office said in late December that it was “looking into a number of issues” involving Santos. However, the announcement stopped short of confirming a formal investigation.

Federal investigation

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, headquartered in Brooklyn, includes Santos’ congressional district. An investigation by U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, the top prosecutor for the Eastern District, is focused in part on Santos’ financial dealings, according to reports by The New York Times, CNN and other news organizations.

A spokesperson for Peace did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Questions about Santos’ financial dealings have included the sources of funding for his 2022 campaign, as well as a sharp increase in his reported earnings between his unsuccessful 2020 congressional campaign and victory in 2022.

►USA TODAY investigates:George Santos’ college education is a myth. Is he the only one lying? We checked

►Concerns about Santos campaign filings:Rep. George Santos’ finances are raising questions. Here’s what public records show.

►Complaint over GoFundMe effort:Rep. George Santos pushes back on ‘insane’ claim he stole funds for veteran’s dying dog

Calls for campaign finance investigations

Several organizations and elected officials have called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate Santos’ campaign funding and spending. The Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan advocate for voters, went further by filing a complaint with the FEC. The organization also sent the complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice’s public integrity section.

The complaint alleges that Santos:

  • Concealed the true sources of his 2022 congressional campaign funding, including the “unexplained and highly suspicious origins of $705,000 Santos purportedly loaned his campaign.” Unknown companies and individuals may have illegally funneled money to the campaign through a limited liability company he created, the CLC said.
  • Falsified reports on his 2022 campaign spending. In all, Santos reported 40 disbursements between $199 and $200. And 37 of the expenditures were for $199.99, one penny below the FEC threshold for requiring receipts, invoices or canceled checks.
  •  Illegally used campaign funds for personal expenses, including a residence for Santos.

The FEC and Department of Justice have not commented on the CLC complaint.

Separately, Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman, both Democratic House members from New York, have asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Santos.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., whose slim, four-seat majority can ill afford to lose a GOP member, has largely avoided the controversy. As McCarthy’s tenure as speaker began, Santos was named to two House committees by his fellow Republicans in the chamber.

Revived criminal allegations in Brazil

Law enforcement authorities in Brazil, where Santos’ parents were born, plan to reopen an investigation into Santos’ alleged use of a stolen checkbook in 2008, The New York Times reported.

Allegedly using a false name, he used the checkbook for nearly $700 in spending at a shop outside Rio de Janeiro, the Times reported.

The investigation went dormant because Brazilian authorities were unable to locate Santos. Now, the officials plan to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to notify Santos about the charges, a move that would enable the case to proceed.

“I am not a criminal here — not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world,” Santos told the New York Post in December before the Times report of the Brazilian case being revived.

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