In a matter of weeks, New York’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. George Santos went from winning a general election to being exposed as one of the biggest liars in government. 

The 3rd District is the wealthiest congressional district in the United States, extending across northern Nassau County and northeastern Queens. House representatives serve two-year terms and are entrusted to introduce bills, draft amendments and serve on various committees. Santos made history by flipping the longtime blue district, and he and his opponent Robert Zimmerman were the first openly gay candidates to face off in a congressional race. 

Soon after his victory, many of the stories that built the foundation of Santos’ campaign began to crumble beneath him. In January, well before his eventual indictment, he submitted a request to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy to temporarily relieve him of his assignments with the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Small Business Committee. 

As of Monday, May 10, he faces indictment for 13 felonies including money laundering, theft of public funds and false statements. Santos pled not guilty and was released on a $500,000 bond following his arraignment. 

“Resume Embellishments”

Santos attempted to bolster his resume with a multitude of false embellishments. He initially stated that he was an alum of Baruch College and got his MBA at New York University. However, neither institution has a record of his attendance.

After his imaginary graduation from Baruch, he claimed to have worked at Citigroup and later, Goldman Sachs. Santos shared conflicting information across a myriad of press interviews, which led to further investigation. It was finally confirmed that he worked for Linkbridge Investors, a company that links investors with clients. Santos later backtracked on his initial statements, explaining that Linkbridge worked with Citigroup and Goldman Sachs on rare occasions, which contradicts earlier claims of being directly employed by the prestigious financial firms. 

More “About George”

On the “About George” section of his campaign page, Santos claimed his father was Catholic and his mother was Jewish. However, his mother’s social media presence featured posts of Catholic imagery. Santos went on to lie that his maternal grandparents escaped Jewish persecution in Ukraine during the Holocaust, yet genealogy records show that both grandparents were born in Brazil well before the Nazis rose to power in Germany. Their refugee records are also nonexistent. According to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, this family history wasn’t added to his bio until between April and October of 2022. 

​Santos also depicted his mother, Fatima Alzira Caruso Horta Devolder, to be a victim of 9/11. In fact, he went so far as to say that she was working in the South Tower on the day of the terrorist attacks. Records show that she didn’t begin filling out visa paperwork to move from Brazil to New York until 2003. After his win, he tried to clarify that when he said that 9/11 claimed her life, he meant she died later of secondhand toxins. 

Money Mystery

According to the official press release of his indictment, Santos is alleged to have been involved in various illegal money schemes, and even lied about his unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In February of 2020, Santos was employed as a Regional Director of a Florida-based investment firm where he earned an annual salary of $120,000. In mid-June of the same year, while still employed, “Santos applied for government assistance through the New York State Department of Labor, allegedly claiming falsely to have been unemployed since March 2020.” From then until April 2021, Santos collected more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits.

Additionally, in 2021, “Santos operated a limited liability company (Redstone Strategies) through which he allegedly defrauded prospective political supporters.” He enlisted a Queens-based political consultant to tell donors that their contributions would go toward the campaign. Two specific donors were misled and transferred $25,000 to Redstone Strategies’ bank account. The funds were quickly transferred to Santos’ personal accounts, and he reportedly used the money to purchase designer clothing, withdraw cash, discharge personal debts and transfer money to his associates. 

Santos also lied about his income from his own firm, the Devolder Organization. When filling out a House Disclosure form, he reported that he was making $750,000 a year from the company, as well as $1 million and $5 million in dividends. Indictment charges prove that he never received a yearly salary that high, nor did he receive the dividends. 

It’s clear that Santos is fixated on his image and wants to be perceived as a family man, a financial connoisseur and also a man of community service. Military veteran Rich Osthoff alleges that Santos offered to set up a GoFundMe page for his dying service dog, Sapphire, in 2016. The page raised $3,000, but Osthoff never saw the money. He alleges that Santos stole it, and shortly after, Osthoff broke off all contact with him. Osthoff has turned over all information regarding the fundraiser, including text messages from Santos, to aid in an FBI investigation. 

Today’s political climate couldn’t be more polarizing, but Democrats and Republicans have agreed on one thing: Santos is not fit to serve in office. His web of lies has resulted in a loss of public trust not only in him as a leader, but in the political vetting system. Many have raised concerns with the fact-checking systems in place for politicians before they are elected. 

While the charges against Santos remain, he faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if found guilty. The 13 charges, backed up by a large amount of incriminating evidence, place Santos at risk of becoming the sixth House member in United States history to ever face expulsion.

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