Federal prosecutors added major allegations to the indictment charging the House Republican George Santos with fraud and lying about his campaign finance disclosures, presenting evidence that he stole donors’ identities and charged thousands of dollars to their credit cards without their knowledge.
The new charges, revealed in a superseding indictment returned on Tuesday by a grand jury in New York, increases the legal peril for the embattled congressman given that his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, last week pleaded guilty to defrauding the US.
The original indictment filed in May accused Santos of engaging in multiple instances of fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements. Santos, who won his congressional seat through a campaign built partly on falsehoods, pleaded not guilty to those charges.
The updated, 23-count indictment detailed two more fraudulent schemes: the credit card scheme, and a conspiracy to submit to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) false reports that inflated his campaign’s fundraising so it could deceive the Republican party into extending financial support.
In the credit card scheme, Santos is alleged to have devised a way to steal the identities and financial information of his campaign donors, which were used to charge their credit cards and caused money to be deposited into his campaign, other campaigns, and his own bank account.
The scheme involved one instance where Santos allegedly stole the billing details of a donor’s two credit cards and made transfers to his campaign. To get around the fact that they exceeded legal limits, prosecutors said, Santos falsely listed himself and relatives as the sources of the funds.
On one occasion, prosecutors said, Santos charged $12,000 to the donor’s credit card – money that ultimately ended up in his personal account.
In the Republican party deception scheme, Santos is alleged to have conspired with Marks to file FEC reports that falsely claimed his campaign had raised at least $250,000 from third-party donors in a single quarter, the threshold needed to unlock financial support from the GOP.
The deception included false FEC reports that said at least 10 family members of Santos and Marks had made significant contributions to the campaign, as well as false reports that said Santos had loaned large amounts of money to his campaign, including one $500,000 loan.
Confronted by reporters on Capitol Hill as he emerged from a closed-door House Republican conference meeting, shortly after the superseding indictment was unsealed, Santos insisted he had not seen the new allegations and that he would not resign his seat.
“I did not have access to my phone. I have no clue what you guys are talking about,” Santos said.
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The congressman is set to appear in federal court on 27 October, where he is likely to be arraigned on the new charges against him. A spokesperson for Santos did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night and on whether he would plead not guilty.
Santos faces escalating legal peril after Marks last week pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the US by committing one or more federal offenses after cooperating with prosecutors, even if her lawyer claimed she had not entered into a formal plea agreement.
Marks said in a prepared statement at her arraignment in federal district court on Long Island that she had given the FEC a list of fake people who had supposedly given money to the campaign. Outside the courthouse, her lawyer said she could testify against Santos at trial.
“If we get a subpoena, we’ll do the right thing,” said Ray Perini, her lawyer. “There’s a manipulation involved that had to do with her family and the death of her husband,” he added without elaborating further. “There were lies told.”