GOP Representative George Santos of New York pleaded not guilty at a courthouse on Long Island Wednesday to a 13-count federal indictment unsealed by the Justice Department.
Santos surrendered Wednesday morning and has been charged with three counts of money laundering, seven counts of wire fraud, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House, according to the Justice Department.
At the 11-minute hearing, he pleaded guilty and was released on a $500,000 bond. Santos must surrender his passport and have random monitoring at his home, submit to pretrial services, and travel outside Washington, D.C.; the court must approve New York state.
He is due to appear in court again on June 30.
Speaking to reporters following his arraignment, Santos expressed confidence he would be able to clear his name and characterized some of the charges as “inaccurate.”
Santos said he doesn’t plan to resign from Congress and maintains he still intends to run for re-election next year after making the announcement last month, amid calls for him to resign during the ongoing investigations he has faced at the local, federal, and state levels. Santos said he is facing a “witch hunt.”
Wednesday evening, GOP Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy said he would not back Santos’ bid for re-election.
“No, I’m not gonna support Santos,” said McCarthy to reporters on Capitol Hill. “I think he’s got some other things to focus on in this life than running for stuff.”
McCarthy has not yet called on Santos to resign, saying he wants the representative to have his day in court. “He will go through his time in the trial, and let’s find out how the outcome is,” said McCarthy earlier Wednesday.
Rep. Santos accused of engaging in three schemes
In the federal indictment, Santos, a first-term lawmaker representing New York’s 3rd Congressional District, is accused of engaging in three schemes.
Prosecutors said in the first scheme, Santos defrauded prospective political supporters in September by enlisting a political consultant (Person #1) to communicate with potential donors on behalf of Santos.
“Santos allegedly directed Person #1 to falsely tell donors that, among other things, their money would be used to help elect Santos to the House, including by purchasing television advertisements,” said the Justice Department.
According to prosecutors, two unnamed contributors each then transferred $25,000 to a Santos-controlled bank account. Rep. Santos allegedly used much of the funds for personal expenses, including paying down debt, making a car payment, and buying designer clothing.
In the alleged second scheme, the representative is accused of engaging in unemployment insurance fraud starting in 2020 by applying for unemployment benefits made available during the pandemic.
According to the indictment, Santos applied for benefits despite being employed as the regional director of an investment firm based in Florida, where he earned $120,000 per year.
He claimed falsely that he had been unemployed since March 2020, alleging the Justice Department. From then until April 2021, while Santos was receiving a salary, he “falsely affirmed each week that he was eligible for unemployment benefits when he was not,” said the indictment.
“As a result, Santos allegedly fraudulently received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits,” said the Justice Department.
Wednesday, Santos told reporters that the charge alleging he applied for unemployment benefits while already receiving a $120,000 salary was “inaccurate.”
In the third scheme, Representative Santos allegedly misled the public and the House about his financial situation during his two campaigns for Congress, said the Justice Department.
During Santos’ first campaign, in May of 2020, he allegedly overstated his assets and income in financial disclosure documents, claiming he received a $750,000 salary from his employer, the Devolder Organization LLC, along with dividends.
“These assertions were false: Santos had not received from the Devolder Organization LLC the reported amounts of salary or dividends and did not maintain checking or savings accounts with deposits in the reported amounts,” said the Justice Department.
The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation in March that said it would determine whether Rep. Santos “engaged in unlawful activity concerning his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to disclose required information on statements filed with the House properly; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”
If convicted, Santos may face up to 20 years in prison for “the top counts,” said the Justice Department, without specifying which counts they were referring to. Prosecutors said the FBI has been investigating Santos with assistance from the IRS and Nassau County district attorney’s office. Additionally, Santos was recently acc