Congressman Also Allegedly Filed Fraudulent Fundraising Reports to FEC, Used Contributors’ Credit Cards without Their Knowledge
U.S. Congressman George Santos has been indicted on 23 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, false statements, falsification of records, aggravated identity theft, and credit card fraud. The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on October 10.
The charges against Santos (R-Douglaston), the United States Representative for the Third District of New York, include 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 falsifying records submitted to obstruct the FEC, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of access device fraud, in addition to the 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 United States House of Representatives that were charged in the original indictment.
Breon Peace, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Nicole M. Argentieri, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and James Smith, assistant director-in-charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) New York field office; and Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly announced the superseding indictment.
“As alleged, [Mr.] Santos is charged with stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization, lying to the FEC and, by extension, the public about the financial state of his campaign. [Mr.] Santos falsely inflated the campaign’s reported receipts with non-existent loans and contributions that were either fabricated or stolen,” Peace stated. “This office will relentlessly pursue criminal charges against anyone who uses the electoral process as an opportunity to defraud the public and our government institutions.”
Santos, who was elected to Congress last November, engaged in two fraudulent schemes, in addition to the multiple fraudulent schemes alleged in the original indictment.
During the 2022 election cycle, Santos and his campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, conspired with one another to devise and execute a fraudulent scheme to obtain money for the campaign by submitting materially false reports to the FEC on behalf of the campaign, in which they 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 administered by the national party committee, pursuant to which the national party committee would provide financial and logistical support to Santos’s campaign. 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 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 agreed to falsely report to the FEC that Santos had loaned the campaign significant sums of money, 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. These false reported loans included a $500,000 loan, when Santos had less than $8,000 in his personal and business bank accounts.
Through the execution of this scheme, Santos and Marks ensured that Santos met the necessary financial benchmarks to qualify for the program administered by the national party committee. As a result of qualifying for the program, the congressional campaign received the funding. (Marks pleaded guilty on October 5 on charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government, which is a felony.)
In addition, between approximately December 2021 and August 2022, Santos devised and executed a fraudulent scheme to steal the personal identities and financial information of contributors to his campaign. He then charged contributors’ credit cards repeatedly, without their authorization. Because of these unauthorized transactions, funds were transferred to Santos’s 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, rather than the true cardholders. Santos did not have authorization to use their names in this way.
For example, in December 2021, one 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 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 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 his personal bank account.
“[Mr.] Santos allegedly led multiple additional fraudulent criminal schemes, lying to the American public in the process,” Smith stated. “The FBI is committed to upholding the laws of our electoral process. Anyone who attempts to violate the law as part of a political campaign will face punishment in the criminal justice system.”
“The defendant — a Congressman — allegedly stole the identities of family members and used the credit card information of political contributors to fraudulently inflate his campaign coffers,” stated District Attorney Donnelly. “We thank our partners in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI as we work together to root out public corruption on Long Island.”
Santos is due back in federal court in Central Islip on October 27, 2023.