George Santos allegedly brokered $19m superyacht deal between two of his biggest donors
Embattled New York congressman George Santos allegedly brokered a $19m deal for a superyacht between two of his biggest donors.
Rep Santos helped Long Island car dealer Raymond Tantillo buy a luxury 141-foot superyacht from Republican donor Mayra Ruiz, according to The New York Times.
The agreed sale of the boat – dubbed the Neverland yacht – involved an initial down payment of $12.25m followed by a further $6.5m to be paid in installments.
The sale was finalised in September – just weeks before the November midterms where Mr Santos was elected to serve New York’s 3rd congressional district.
It was Mr Santos who allegedly negotiated the deal between the two parties – both of whom donated thousands to his political campaign – and advised them on the logistics of transferring ownership of the boat.
Now, the multi-million-dollar deal – and Mr Santos’ alleged role within it – has attracted the attention of federal and state investigators, the Times revealed.
Sources told the paper that prosecutors and FBI agents are now seeking to speak to Mr Tantillo about the boat sale and his overall dealings with Mr Santos.
The yacht sale is said to be one of around a dozen leads being explored by the FBI, the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Nassau County district attorney’s office as they continue to look into the congressman’s campaign finances and his personal business dealings.
While the boat deal has never before been revealed, Mr Santos has spoken in the past about securing multi-million-dollar contracts – including for boats – for clients of his company Devolder Organization.
“If you’re looking at a $20 million yacht my referral fee there can be anywhere between $200,000 and $400,000,” he told Semafor in December.
The Daily Beast previously revealed that organisations linked to Mr Tantillo and Mr Ruiz were clients of the organisation run by Mr Santos (who used to go by the name Anthony Devolder).
Mr Tantillo also donated around $17,000 and Mr Ruiz $13,700 to Mr Santos’ campaign.
It is not clear if any laws have been broken through the congressman’s involvement in the superyacht deal.
However experts told the Times that Mr Santos could have broken federal law if he accepted any commission in the form of campaign donations.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Santos’ office for comment.
His attorney Joe Murray declined to comment to the Times, as did the FBI, the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Nassau County district attorney.
An attorney for Mr Ruiz told the paper that he was “not interested in making any statement other than the fact that he has already publicly disclosed that he does not know who George Santos is and has never contributed to his campaigns and has never done any business with him”.
Mr Tantillo’s attorney also denied any illicit financial dealings.
“I have every reason to believe that Mr. Tantillo will not be charged for anything, including the purchase of a boat or campaign contributions,” they told the paper.
Mr Santos’ campaign finances have fallen under scrutiny in recent months ever since he was first exposed for making a series of lies on his resume.
Since then, his list of apparent falsehoods has continued to grow and he is now the focus of criminal and ethics investigations.
Questions are also being asked about his sudden uplift in financial fortune after his self-reported annual income leaped from $55,000 in 2020 to $750,000 in 2022.
Despite the controversy, Mr Santos filed paperwork on Tuesday indicating his plans to run for reelection in the next term.