Indicted New York Congressman Settles an Old Case Against him in Brazil

Published: 15 May 2023

Rep. George Santos Official PortraitOfficial Portrait of Representative George Santos of the Third District of New York. (Photo: U.S. House Office of Photography, Wikimedia, License)

By Vinicius Madureira

United States Congressman George Santos reached an agreement with Brazilian authorities on Thursday to avoid prosecution for stealing two checks from a deceased person and using them to buy personal items, including a pair of sneakers.

Santos must pay the equivalent of approximately US$2,900 to the victim within a month, along with a $2,000 fine.

The case dates back to 2008 when Santos allegedly used two stolen checks belonging to a deceased client of his mother, who worked as a nurse.

He forged the signature on these checks and went shopping at a store in the city of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. At the time, the recipient could not cash the checks as they were tied to an inactive bank account.

A more serious case against him is currently underway in the U.S.

This week, he was indicted for fraudulently deceiving his supporters into contributing to a fake political action committee and using the funds to purchase luxury items and pay off his credit card bills.

"The allegations in the indictment charge Santos with repeatedly relying on dishonesty and deception to gain a position in Congress and enrich himself," stated U.S. Attorney Breon Peace.

In late 2022, George Santos, a candidate for the House, devised a plan to defraud his supporters by convincing them to contribute funds to a company he claimed was a social welfare organization or an independent expenditure committee, also known as a "Super PAC," although it was neither.

He then misappropriated the funds for his personal benefit, including purchasing luxury designer clothing and making credit card payments.

George Santos instructed one of his political consultants, whose identity is known only to the court, to provide false information about the company to supporters, persuading them to contribute money under false pretenses.

The politician facilitated the creation of an email address associated with the company for that consultant, providing names and contact information of potential contributors, and conveyed false information about the company's nature and the purpose of the contributions.

Some individuals made contributions to that company in amounts exceeding the limits applicable to candidate committees.

Emails were sent to contributors falsely stating that the company was aiming to "raise another $700,000 to reach our goal of $1.5 million to invest in George Santos' race." Text messages were also sent to a contributor falsely stating that their contribution would be used "to get our advertising up on TV."

Santos is alleged to have engaged in multiple fraudulent schemes, including unlawfully applying for unemployment benefits intended for New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic and lying to the House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, along with other authorities, including Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director of the FBI, announced all 13 counts.

Santos was arrested on the day of the indictment's unsealing and was arraigned before a federal magistrate judge. The politician was released after posting a $500,000 bond and agreed to surrender his passport. After the arraignment, Santos stated that it is his "right to fight to prove my innocence" and remains steadfast despite calls for his resignation.