Long Island, NY – U.S. Representative George Santos (R-New York) was taken into custody on Wednesday morning after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed federal charges against the freshman lawmaker.
Santos was taken into custody at Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offices in Melville on May 10 and then transported to the courthouse in Central Islip, CNN reported.
The New York lawmaker is facing a 13-count indictment that included 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 U.S. House of Representatives.
Santos is scheduled for arraignment on Wednesday afternoon, CNN reported.
The congressman, who represents parts of Queens and Long Island in the nation’s capital, has been under investigation in multiple jurisdictions, and by the House Ethics Committee, since he took office last year.
Top Democrats made allegations of criminal behavior against Santos early in his term and then multiple incidences of dishonesty regarding his heritage and professional background became public, CNN reported.
Santos lied about his education and background when he was running for office, NBC News reported.
According to the indictment, the congressman stands accused of defrauding prospective political supporters in September of 2022 when he enlisted a Queens-based political consultant to raise money on his behalf.
“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,” according to DOJ.
After the fundraiser made the asks, two unnamed contributors each transferred $25,000 to a Santos-controlled bank account, NBC News reported.
“Santos allegedly then used much of that money for personal expenses. Among other things, Santos allegedly used the funds to make personal purchases (including of designer clothing), to withdraw cash, to discharge personal debts, and to transfer money to his associates,” DOJ said.
The freshman lawmaker has also been accused of engaging in unemployment insurance fraud in 2020 when he applied for unemployment benefits during the Covid pandemic, NBC News reported.
DOJ said Santos applied for the unemployment money even though he was employed as the regional director of a Florida-based investment firm.
The indictment claimed that at the time he applied for federal assistance, Santos was earning an annual salary of $120,000, NBC News reported.
But DOJ has accused Santos of falsely claiming that he had been unemployed since March of 2020.
Between March of 2020 and April of 2021, “he falsely affirmed each week that he was eligible for unemployment benefits when he was not,” according to DOJ.
The result was that Santos collected more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits that prosecutors said he was not entitled to, NBC News reported.
The lawmaker also stands accused of lying to Congress and the public in his financial disclosures during his two campaigns in 2020 and 2022.
The indictment said the then-candidate lied about the sources of his income, and falsely claimed he made more compensation from one source than he actually had, and less money from the investment firm where he was actually employed, NBC News reported.
He also lied about his education and his family heritage while he was on the campaign trail.
Federal prosecutors said they conducted the investigation into the New York congressman with the assistance of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), NBC News reported.
If convicted, Santos is facing up to 20 years in prison on the top counts in the indictment.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said he would look into the charges before he made a decision about whether Santos needed to be removed from his congressional seat, CNN reported.