Rep. George Santos (R-NY)’s mother was in Brazil on September 11, 2001, contradicting his previous claim that she was present at the attacks and later died of cancer, according to a new report that adds to the freshman congressman’s growing list of lies, as he refuses calls for him to resign from Congress.
His mother’s death: Santos said on his campaign website that his mother, Fatima Devolder, was “in the South Tower” on 9/11 and later succumbed to cancer, but she said on a green card application filed in 2003 she had not been in the U.S. since 1999, The Forward reported Wednesday.
A hefty salary: Santos claimed he made a $750,000 salary and up to $10 million in dividends between 2021 and 2022 through a company he founded in 2021 called the Devolder Organization, according to his most recent financial disclosure–but reported making only $55,000 during his 2020 campaign for Congress.
Santos did not report, however, that he received payments as recently as April 2021 from a Florida-based financial services company he used to work for, Harbor City Capital, which was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of a “classic Ponzi scheme,” The Washington Post reported.
A career selling yachts: Santos told Semafor that he made money at Devolder by brokering luxury purchases, like a “$20 million yacht,” for wealthy clients, but refused to provide the publication with a client list or details about the alleged contracts.
A real estate empire: Santos claimed he owned a $1 million apartment in Brazil and said on the campaign trail his family owned 13 real estate properties, but he later told the New York Post he does not own any real estate properties and is living with his sister at her apartment in Queens, where she’s allegedly facing eviction for $40,000 in unpaid rent.
His campaign cash: Santos’ campaign sought donations through a group that billed itself as an independent expenditure committee called Redstone Strategies, but the Federal Election Commission said it could not find evidence Redstone was registered as a political group or records of its donors, contributions or spending, The Times reported Thursday.
Watchdog group the Campaign Legal Center accused Devolder of being a bogus business used to funnel money to the Santos campaign and suspects Santos may have underreported donations and used some of the money on personal expenses, it wrote in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission.
His inflated resume: Santos claimed he attended the prestigious Horace Mann prep school before graduating summa cum laude from Baruch College with a 3.89 GPA, scoring a 710 on his GMAT exam and earning a master’s degree in international business from New York University–but later admitted to the New York Post he never graduated from college, while a Horace Mann spokesperson told The Times there were no records of him attending.
A stint on Wall Street: Santos confessed to The New York Post that he embellished claims of working directly for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, blaming the lies on “a poor choice of words” and explaining that he instead worked with the companies during his time at LinkBridge Investors.
An animal rescue charity: Santos said he founded and owned an animal rescue charity called Friends of Pets United, but after The Times found no IRS documents to back up Santos’ claim, he changed his story to say he only campaigned for the charity and helped find foster homes for the animals.
Santos is facing allegations he used the fake animal charity to set up a GoFundMe account for an unhoused veteran whose dog needed life-saving surgery, then ran off with the money after the account raised $3,000, claims Santos denied, calling them “fake.”
A Covid-19 diagnosis: Santos said in a March 2020 interview, just weeks after the first Covid-19 case was detected in New York, that he had been hospitalized with the disease, which he said was complicated by previous brain tumor–yet he appeared to be healthy at the same time he was allegedly suffering from the virus in interview clips a Washington Post reporter recently uncovered and changed the timeline of his alleged diagnosis in subsequent interviews.
Ties to the Pulse nightclub shooting: Santos admitted that he fabricated his claim that he “lost” four employees in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, explaining in a recent WABC radio interview with disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), that he was in the process of hiring the four victims.
His “Jewish” heritage: Santos claimed on his campaign website that his maternal grandparents fled Ukraine to escape anti-Jewish persecution during World War II, but confessed to the New York Post that he is not Jewish and identifies as “Jew-ish,” while genealogy records reviewed by The Forward show his maternal grandparents were both born in Brazil.
His marriage: Santos, who claims to be the first openly gay non-incumbent GOP representative elected to Congress, never disclosed his marriage to a woman, The Daily Beast reported, citing records that show the pair were divorced less than two weeks before he launched his 2020 campaign for Congress.
His criminal background: After The Times uncovered Brazilian court records showing Santos was charged with check fraud in 2008 for allegedly stealing a man’s checkbook and using it to make fraudulent purchases, Brazilian prosecutors announced they would reopen the case.
Santos on Thursday remained defiant amid calls for his resignation, telling Steve Bannon on his War Room podcast that he has “lived an honest life” and will seek re-election in 2024 for a second term. “I just pray for all of you when they come for you that you have the same strength I have,” he told his critics.
“He’s a complete and total fraud,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said Thursday. “[He] lied to the voters of the 3rd Congressional District in New York, deceived and connived his way into Congress. And it’s now the responsibility of House Republicans to do something about it.”
Santos faces growing calls for him to resign from his Republican colleagues, including at least six New York GOP representatives and the Nassau County Republican Party. He said Thursday he will not resign unless the “142,000” voters who elected him call on him to do so (more than 145,000 people voted for Santos in the midterm election). In addition to calls for his resignation, Santos faces a slew of ethics and criminal probes into his conduct. Democrats and activist groups have filed complaints against him with the Federal Election Commission, the House Ethics Committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics, and the Justice Department, New York Attorney General and Nassau County prosecutor’s offices have also said they are reviewing the allegations. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), however, has defended Santos and has not committed to pursuing his removal from Congress, but said he will be scrutinized and face consequences if wrongdoing is found.
What To Watch For
If Santos resigned or was ejected from Congress (a process that requires a vote of two-thirds of its members), New York Gov. Kathy Hochul would call a special election to replace him. Santos’ removal could be a blow to Republicans, who regained control of the House with a slim four-seat majority after flipping multiple districts previously held by Democrats, including New York’s third congressional district Santos now represents.