George Santos check fraud case to be revived in Brazil



SANTOS, Brazil — Authorities in Brazil are seeking to reinstate a 15-year-old fraud charge against George Santos, the latest controversy to hit the New York Republican, who was due to be sworn in to Congress on Tuesday.

The charge, first reported by the New York Times on Monday, stems from the alleged theft and use of a checkbook in Rio de Janeiro state in 2008, when Santos was 19. Authorities opened an investigation, but suspended it when they were unable to find him. He is also under investigation by the Nassau County, N.Y., district attorney, who is probing the “numerous fabrications and inconsistencies” about his biography that have come to light since his election.

The talented Mr. Santos: A congressman-elect’s unraveling web of deception

The Rio state prosecutor’s office told The Washington Post that authorities were alerted to Santos’s whereabouts by news of his election. They planned to file a request for a summons of Santos on Friday, when the court reopens after a holiday break.

Santos, now 34, was in Washington on Tuesday for the opening of the 118th Congress. A person who answered his phone Tuesday morning said “I’m really busy right now” and “this is not the best time” and ended the call.

An attorney for Santos said he could not confirm the Brazilian action. “I am in the process of engaging local counsel to address this alleged complaint against my client,” attorney Joe Murray said.

Rio state prosecutors allege that Santos spent $700 at a small clothing store in the city of Niterói in 2008 using a stolen checkbook and a false name, court records show. Santos acknowledged the incident in a post on the social media platform Orkut, prosecutors allege, writing “I know I screwed up, but I want to pay.” The next year, prosecutors allege, he told police he took the checkbook from a man for whom his mother worked.

If convicted of the fraud charge, Santos could be fined and sentenced to up to five years in prison. But given the value at issue and the absence of prior offenses, a lawyer here said, a judge would likely order him to pay a fine.

Santos campaigned as a gay Republican of Brazilian descent and Jewish ancestry who represented the quintessential “American Dream” for the open seat in New York’s 3rd Congressional District, comprising parts of Long Island and Queens. He defeated Democrat Robert Zimmerman in November to flip the seat to the GOP.

He has since admitted to making false or misleading statements about his heritage, education and work experience — he called it “résumé embellishment” — but said he’s not a criminal in the United States or Brazil. Democrats have demanded his resignation; Republican congressional leaders have been silent.

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, a Republican, called the fabrications and inconsistencies “nothing short of stunning.”

“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” she said. “If a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”

A tiny paper broke the George Santos scandal but no one paid attention

In the United States, the most serious questions about Santos relate to his finances and campaign spending.

In a financial disclosure in 2020, when he ran unsuccessfully for the House, Santos reported that he had no assets or earned income, and cited only a commission worth more than $5,000. But in a 2022 disclosure, he said he was worth millions, mostly from a Florida company in which he was the sole owner: the Devolder Organization.

At one point, Santos said on his campaign website that Devolder was a privately held family firm with $80 million in assets under management. In his Sept. 6 disclosure, he reported that the Devolder Organization had paid him an annual salary of $750,000 in 2021 and 2022 and the company was worth between $1 million and $5 million.

Documents filed with the Florida secretary of state show that Santos organized the company in May 2021. On July 30, 2022, the financial data company Dun & Bradstreet estimated that Devolder had a revenue of $43,688. As a privately held company, Devolder is not required to publicly release financial reports.

Incorrect filings by candidates may draw civil or criminal penalties.

Santos’s false and misleading statements drew attention soon after his surprise election victory.

In a campaign biography, he claimed his grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, but after multiple news organization questioned the claim, Santos said he was Catholic.

“I never claimed to be Jewish,” he told the New York Post in December. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”

His claims of having attended the Horace Mann School, a prestigious prep school in New York, and graduating from Baruch College turned out to be false — “I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning,” he told the New York Post — as did assertions that he worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Masih reported from Seoul. Parker reported from Washington. Shayna Jacobs in Washington contributed to this report.

#George #Santos #check #fraud #case #revived #Brazil