The two people who bailed Rep. George Santos out of federal custody have been revealed to be his father and his aunt, a detail the Republican fought to keep secret as he faces criminal charges and swirling questions about his finances.
Gercino dos Santos Jr. and Elma Preven were named in a court filing on Thursday as the co-signers of Santos' $500,000 bond, which enabled his release as he awaits trial on federal charges of fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds.
Santos, R-N.Y., had fought to keep their names secret. They were revealed after media organizations, including The Associated Press, petitioned the court for the records to be unsealed, citing the right of public access to court proceedings.
In a court filing earlier this month, his attorney, Joseph Murray, said Santos would rather go to jail than subject his guarantors to the “great harm” that could come from public disclosure. Under the bond agreement, the co-signers did not have to pay any money upfront, but would be held financially liable if Santos did not return to court.
While the identities of signatories are normally made public, Murray pointed to the “media frenzy and hateful attacks” faced by Santos as a reason to make an exception. Santos told reporters after his initial court appearance they would “never get” information about the source of his bail funds, claiming the media would “harass them and make their life miserable.”
But after news organizations pushed for the filings to be made public, a federal judge denied Santos’ request to keep the information secret. Santos appealed the decision, with his lawyer arguing that the co-signers should be given the opportunity to withdraw their support before the names are released. The appeal was denied on Tuesday.
In a newly unsealed filing, Judge Joanna Seybert wrote Santos “did nothing to diffuse the ‘media frenzy,’” adding that his attempts to shield the names of his family members had “simply created hysteria over what is, in actuality, a nonissue.”
Both his aunt and father are New York residents who donated to Santos’ political campaign. In campaign finance records, his father lists his occupation as a painter. Preven said she worked as a mail carrier. Attempts to reach them on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Efforts by Santos to withhold their names from the public had fueled speculation and doubt, with some House Democrats suggesting that a financial supporter could be seeking to exert political influence on the congressman.
Earlier this week, Reps. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., and Greg Landsman, D-Ohio, introduced a resolution calling on the House Ethics Committee to disclose the names so they could determine whether Santos was in violation of congressional gifting rules.
Santos pleaded not guilty on May 10 to a 13-count indictment charging that he duped donors, stole from his campaign, lied to Congress about being a millionaire and cheated to collect unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve.
He has defied calls to resign, while refusing to answer questions about the source of his wealth, including a $700,000 payment he made to his campaign. According to federal prosecutors, Santos vastly overstated his income and assets, falsely certifying that he earned a $750,000 salary from a consulting company known as the Devolder Organization LLC.
Santos could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He is due back in court on June 30th.