The New York congressman has now pleaded not guilty to a total of 23 federal criminal charges related to fraud and identity theft
Republican Rep. George Santos pleaded not guilty on Friday to the latest round of criminal charges against him, which include identity theft and the unauthorized use of donors' credit cards.
Santos previously entered a not guilty plea to 13 federal counts in May, before a superseding indictment tacked on 10 more counts earlier this month, requiring him to be arraigned a second time.
If convicted of the top counts, the freshman congressman faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.
The 10 new charges against Santos were announced by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Oct. 10.
“As alleged, Santos is charged with stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization, lying to the FEC and, by extension, the public about the financial state of his campaign," stated U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. "Santos falsely inflated the campaign’s reported receipts with non-existent loans and contributions that were either fabricated or stolen."
In the initial May indictment, federal prosecutors alleged that Santos "devised and executed a scheme" aimed at defrauding donors to his 2022 political campaign.
That alleged scheme included applying for and receiving unemployment benefits at the height of the pandemic — while he was employed and running a congressional campaign. The fraud continued, the indictment adds, when Santos allegedly began pocketing campaign contributions to buy designer clothing and pay off his personal debts.
NBC News reports that a trial for Santos is scheduled for Sept. 9, 2024.
Santos was elected in November 2022 to represent a New York district made up of parts of Long Island and Queens.
He became the subject of controversy soon after, when The New York Times reported that he had misled voters about everything from his level of education and previous jobs to family ties to the Holocaust.
Santos admitted to some of the lies — like saying he had worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, which he did not, and saying he had attended Baruch College and New York University, when he did not graduate college — but many questions persisted.
Some of the mysteries surrounding Santos have centered on the source of his income, which has seemingly grown by hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years.
In January, Santos told colleagues he would temporarily resign from his assignments on the Small Business and Science Committees while various investigations into his past play out.
Earlier this month, a former campaign treasurer for Santos pleaded guilty to a felony charge, though the specific felony charge (or charges) against her remain under seal.
As the Republican's legal troubles mount, so do calls for him to resign. Earlier this month, a group of New York Republicans introduced an expulsion resolution against him. While many lawmakers have called on Santos to resign, the resolution marked the first formal GOP-led effort to oust him from Congress. The House will vote on the resolution next week.
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