LI Congressman George Santos to Face Federal Charges: Now What?

By: Miya Jones
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Lon Island Congressman George Santos at the House Chamber

Long Island Congressman George Santos has been charged with 13 federal counts, which includes seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives regarding his finances according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York.

The 34-year-old congressman surrendered into custody this week at a federal courthouse in Central Islip. He plead not guilty to all charges. He was released on a $500,000 bond and surrendered his passport. If convicted, the politician could possibly face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” said United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace. “Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself. He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives. My Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively root out corruption and self-dealing from our community’s public institutions and hold public officials accountable to the constituents who elected them.”

Back in January, the newly elected congressman began making headlines not only for his election win, but for several exposed falsehoods. An explosive New York Times story called Santos’ educational and professional claims into question. The Long Island Republican later admitted to lying about working for the investment firms Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. He also lied about graduating from Baruch College.

Subsequently, other claims Santos made were challenged such as his alleged Jewish ancestry. In a 2021 campaign video, the congressman claimed his grandparents were Ukrainian Jews who fled the Holocaust. The Forward reported after searching through genealogy websites that Santos’ grandparents are from Brazil. They found no trace of Jewish or Ukrainian ancestry. Other statements made by Santos that were disproven include lying about founding an animal nonprofit, his mother dying in 9/11 and having employees who were killed during the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

So what’s next for Santos?

During a press conference after the indictment, Santos said he “will not resign.”

“Now I’m going to have to go fight to defend myself,” Santos said to reporters. “The reality is that it’s a witch hunt.”

George Santos

Being indicted or found guilty of a crime does not automatically remove one from Congress. Politicians can opt to remove Santos, but it would require two-thirds of the House to agree. This has only happened five times to members of the House since the inception of the U.S. government.

Several local Republicans have called for Santos to step down including Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, Rep. Nick Langworthy, Rep. Nick LaLota, Rep. Marc Molinaro, Rep. Mike Lawler and Rep. Brandon Williams. Sen. Mitt Romney also denounced Santos during a confrontation during the State of the Union address back in February. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said in January if Santos has broken the law, “we will remove him.” More recently, McCarthy has held off on calling for Santos’ resignation.

“In America, we’ll just follow the same pattern we always have, right?” said McCarthy. “If a person is indicted, they’re not on committees. They have the right to vote, but they have to go to trial.”

Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly stated further investigation into Santos still remains ongoing. Over the next few months, it will be determined whether the case actually makes it to trial. Santos’ lawyer can find a reason to dismiss the case or a plea agreement could be reached before making it to court. If the case goes to trial, the traditional court process will play out. Time will tell whether the congressman will become the sixth person to be removed from the House or will remain at his post and continue with his re-election bid.

Santos currently represents the Third District of New York, which includes Oyster Bay Cove, Old Brookville, Levittown, Glen Cove, Roslyn, Manhasset, Plainview, Bethpage, Port Washington, Hicksville, Jericho, Syosset, Mineola, Farmingdale, Massapequa Park and Great Neck.

George SantosDemocrats have largely spoken out against Santos and have called for him to step down. In February, Democrats filed a resolution spearheaded by Democratic Rep. Robert Garcia of California to expel Santos from Congress. More than three dozen Democratic lawmakers have supported it.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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