New York (AFP) – A scandal-plagued Republican congressman whose extensive lies have made political headlines since his election last year was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors on Wednesday.
Representative George Santos was charged with 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 House of Representatives.
He was arrested on Wednesday morning and will appear in court in Central Islip, New York, later in the day, the Eastern District of New York said in a statement.
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” said prosecutor Breon Peace.
“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself.
“He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives,” Peace added.
The indictment accuses Santos of defrauding donors during his successful election by transferring the money into his own personal bank account.
It also alleges that he filed false financial disclosures to the House of Representatives about his assets and income.
The 34-year-old is also accused of collecting unemployment benefits that he was not entitled to before his election to Congress.
If convicted of the charges, Santos faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for the top counts.
Santos has admitted fabricating much of his biography, including his real name, his religion — he falsely claimed to be Jewish — his schooling and his employment history when he ran last year for a House seat representing parts of Long Island, New York.
He has also been accused of sexual harassment of a man his office allegedly offered a job and then rescinded when the man turned down Santos’s advances.
He has faced calls to resign from constituents, some fellow Republicans as well as Democrats in Congress, but has thus far refused.
In an interview with TV host Piers Morgan earlier this year, Santos admitted to some lies on his resume.
“I have been a terrible liar” on certain issues, he said.
“This wasn’t about tricking the people, this was about getting accepted by the party,” he said.