Indicted Rep. George Santos has confessed to theft in Brazil, a move that will prevent the New York Republican from being criminally prosecuted there. That’s nice for him. It frees up some of his time to defend himself from criminal prosecution here at home.
Santos has to pay the U.S. dollar equivalent of roughly $2,000 in fines and $2,800 to the victim in the next 30 days before the charges are officially dropped. In 2008, when he was 19, Santos bought clothing and shoes from a shop in the city of Niterói using a stolen checkbook and a fake identity. Several days later, another man tried to return the shoes, saying Santos had given them to him. When shop owner Carlos Bruno Simões realized it was theft, he filed charges. Santos eventually admitted the crime and was formally charged in 2011, but then disappeared and the case was in limbo until Santos burst into American headlines as the lying freshman congressman.
Santos agreed to the plea deal Thursday via video conference, because he can’t leave the United States. He relinquished his passports and can’t travel outside of New York state and Washington, D.C., without court permission after being criminally charged in New York on Wednesday. The indictment includes seven counts of wire fraud, some connected to fraudulently taking unemployment benefits; three counts of money laundering; one count of stealing public funds; and two counts of lying to Congress.
And while he was virtually confessing to theft in Brazil, Santos was continuing to profess his innocence in the U.S.
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Santos pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court and held an impromptu press conference after the arraignment. He declared he’s the victim of a “witch hunt,” saying “it makes no sense that in four months—four months, five months—I’m indicted.” He added, “I’m going to fight my battle. I’m going to deliver. I’m going to fight the witch hunt. I’m going to take care of clearing my name and I look forward to doing that.”
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Santos then returned to Washington—just in time to cast what has to be the most hypocritical vote ever, even for a Republican. He voted Thursday for a bill cracking down on unemployment fraud.
Santos cosponsored the legislation which creates incentives for states to go after people who filed false claims for generous pandemic-era unemployment benefits—the same crime Santos is charged with. According to the charges, he claimed he was unemployed from March 22, 2020, through about April 15, 2021. During that time, Santos was reportedly earning a salary of $120,000 a year from a Florida-based investment firm.
His fellow Republicans didn’t really want to talk about any of that fraud—as it relates to Santos, that is. “There is a legal process. … He’s going to have to go through the legal process,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise told reporters. “But we’re going to continue to work to root out fraud, and there’s lots of it.” But they won’t root out this walking, talking, epitome of fraud in their own conference.
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