NEW YORK — Rep. George Santos, the New York Republican who has long faced calls for his resignation amid scrutiny of his work and personal history, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 13 federal charges.
A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Santos on 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 House of Representatives, prosecutors said. He turned himself in to authorities at the federal court in Long Island on Wednesday morning, The New York Times reported.
‘I have plenty of evidence’ of innocence, will not resign, Santos says
Update 3:15 p.m. EDT May 10: Santos told reporters on Wednesday that he has “plenty of evidence that we will now be sharing with the government in this case to make sure that I can defend my innocence.”
The freshman lawmaker earlier reiterated that he would not resign after pleading not guilty to charges in federal court on Wednesday.
He said he will cooperate with investigators and added that he has “been complying throughout this entire process.”
He is expected to appear in court again in June.
Santos: ‘It’s a witch hunt’
Update 3:10 p.m. EDT May 10: Santos denied that he fraudulently got $24,000 of unemployment benefits while working during the pandemic, telling reporters gathered outside the courtroom in New York, “It’s a witch hunt.”
“Look, this is the beginning of the ability for me to address and defend myself,” he said. Later, he added, “I’m going to fight the witches. I’m going to clear my name and I look forward to doing that.”
He reiterated that he does not plan to resign and that he will run for reelection in 2024.
Judge gives Santos $500,000 bond
Update 2:30 p.m. EDT May 10: Authorities said that Santos will be released on a $500,000 bond after he pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges, CNN reported.
He is set to appear in court next on June 30.
Santos pleads not guilty
Update 2:18 p.m. EDT May 10: Santos pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him during his arraignment on Wednesday, prosecutors said.
Original report He is set to be arraigned Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, authorities said.
Prosecutors accused Santos of funneling money meant for his congressional campaign into his own pockets, lying to the House of Representatives about his finances and claiming unemployment benefits while earning a $120,000 annual salary and running for Congress.
The charges come after Santos co-sponsored a House bill aimed at helping states to recover fraudulent pandemic employment payments, the Times reported.
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself.”
In 2020, authorities said Santos claimed unemployment benefits in New York after legislation was passed to aid Americans struggling to find work during the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, authorities said he was a regional director for a Florida-based investment firm and making about $120,000 each year. From June 2020 until April 2021, he “falsely affirmed each week that he was eligible for unemployment benefits when he was not,” prosecutors said. In total, he got more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits.
Two years later, authorities said Santos solicited campaign donations and told potential donors that the funds would go toward buying TV ads to support his congressional run. Instead, prosecutors said he transferred the cash to his personal accounts and used it to buy designer clothes and pay off personal debts, among other things.
Authorities said Santos also lied on financial disclosure statements that he was required to file with the House of Representatives. During his unsuccessful 2020 bid for a seat in the House, he overstated the income he earned from one company and failed to disclose the salary he earned from another, prosecutors said. In 2022, during his second campaign for the House, he overstated his income and assets, according to authorities.
Santos has resisted calls to step down for months after he admitted to lying about parts of his education and work history during his run for Congress.
Among other things, he claimed to have graduated from New York’s Baruch College in 2010 and said that he worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, according to the Times. Neither the school nor the companies could confirm his statements, the newspaper reported. He also said that his mother was at the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, though immigration records obtained by CNN contradicted the claim.
In an interview with the New York Post, Santos acknowledged that he embellished his resume, though he insisted that the fabrications would not impact his ability to get things done in the House. In January, he stepped down from his committee assignments amid the ongoing scrutiny. He is also facing a House ethics probe.
Last month, Santos launched a reelection bid for 2024, Politico reported.
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