Embattled Rep. George Santos was charged with 13 federal counts Wednesday, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and lying to the U.S. House.
The New York Republican pioneered a new kind of political scandal by fabricating almost his entire campaign biography. His claims about working for Goldman Sachs, having Jewish ancestry and even running pet charities were largely untrue. Santos has claimed he merely embellished his resume but never did anything unlawful.
Here’s a look at some of the charges and scandals that involve Santos:
Charges we’re just hearing about
Santos is now accused of fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits. The congressman applied for and received more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits even though he was employed as a regional director of a Florida-based investment firm, where he earned an annual salary of $120,000, according to prosecutors.
Santos also allegedly used campaign contributions to pay down personal debts and purchase designer clothing. According to the indictment, Santos sought out a Queens-based political consultant to support his campaign.
As a result, two donors each gave $25,000, prosecutors allege. But the money was transferred to Santos’ personal bank accounts and eventually used for personal expenses, including paying personal debts, withdrawing cash and purchasing luxury clothing, according to the indictment.
The House Ethics Committee said last month that it had begun a formal investigation into Santos for “unlawful activity” regarding his 2022 bid for office, failure to disclose all required information on House forms and more. House colleagues also filed ethics claims against Santos regarding his disclosure reports. Santos was charged in part Wednesday for making false statements to the House of Representatives, misleading Congress and the public about his financial condition.
The Nassau County district attorney announced an investigation in December to determine if any of his fabrications amount to a crime. New York state Attorney General Tish James’ office has also said it is looking into a number of issues related to Santos’ conduct.
FBI agents are also investigating Santos’ role in an alleged GoFundMe scheme involving a disabled U.S. Navy veteran’s dying service dog. The service member said Santos raised $3,000 for life-saving surgery for the pit bull mix, then ghosted with the funds. The dog died from the tumor in 2017.
Friends of Pets United, the charity Santos claimed to have run at the time, was not a registered charity, The New York Times reported in December when it first broke the story that Santos had fabricated much of his campaign biography.
The other scandals that haven’t resulted in charges
Education and career
Santos claimed that he attended Horace Mann in a campaign biography. He said that he dropped out four months before graduation due to the 2008 economic crash, according to CNN, but a representative for the school told CNN that there was no record of Santos’ enrollment at the school.
Santos also said he graduated with a degree in economics and finance from Baruch College in 2010. But representatives from the school told The New York Times they had no record of his enrollment.
That same campaign biography stated that he worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, but neither firm had records of his employment, according to The New York Times.
Santos claimed during an interview that he lost four employees in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, but The New York Times review found that none of the victims of the Orlando shooting appeared to be associated with any of his firms.
Family and personal life
Santos has also faced questions about statements he made about the death of his mother. His campaign website said that his mother, who was working in the World Trade Center’s South Tower on Sept. 11, survived the attacks but “passed away a few years later when she lost her battle to cancer.”
In 2021, Santos tweeted, “9/11 claimed my mothers life.” In a separate 2021 post, however, he placed her death in 2016, writing: “December 23rd this year marks 5 years I lost my best friend and mentor. Mom you will live forever in my heart.”
Santos also conceded he’d embellished his family’s Jewish history, having previously claimed his mother was Jewish and his maternal grandparents escaped the Holocaust during World War II.
The congressman has also pushed back against claims that he dressed in drag while living in Brazil.
“The most recent obsession from the media claiming that I am a drag Queen or ‘performed’ as a drag Queen is categorically false,” Santos said on Twitter.
Santos eventually conceded to reporters that he did not dress in drag but that he was having “fun at a festival.”