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US congressman arrested for fraud and money laundering

George Santos, who has resisted calls to resign for lying about his resume, was arrested ahead of an expected court appearance in New York

Source: Sky News

US Republican congressman George Santos has been arrested in New York on federal charges of fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds.

The 34-year-old US politician has been charged on 13 counts including 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, according to the Justice Department.

Santos, who has resisted calls to resign for lying about his resume, was arrested ahead of an expected court appearance in New York.

He is due to appear in court at 1 pm local time, where the charges against him will be read.

The indictment charges Santos with defrauding prospective political supporters by laundering funds to pay for his personal expenses and illegally receiving unemployment benefits while he was employed.

He is also accused of making false statements to the House of Representatives about his assets, income and liabilities.

The Justice Department said that if convicted, Santos would face up to 20 years in prison for the top counts.

Federal prosecutors have been examining false statement allegations in Santos's campaign filings. Federal prosecutor Breon Peace said the indictment "seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations".

"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 added.

Since he was elected in November, Santos has been at the center of a web of extraordinary revelations and accusations covering everything from his heritage to jobs he simply never held.

Shortly after his election victory, a New York Times investigation found a number of false claims he made on his CV about his personal and professional history.

He is accused of fabricating parts of his CV while running for Congress.

Among other claims, Santos said he had degrees from New York University and Baruch College, despite neither institution's having any record of his attending. He claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, which also was untrue.

Many of his fellow New York Republicans called on him to resign after his history of fabrications was revealed.

US House Majority Leader Steve Scalise has said the charges against Santos are "serious", but added, "there's a presumption of innocence".

Mr. Santos told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he was unaware of the charges.

Questions about Santos's finances also surfaced.

In regulatory filings, Santos said he had loaned his campaign and related political action committees more than $750,000 (£594,000), but it was unclear how he would have come into that kind of wealth so quickly after years in which he struggled to pay his rent and faced multiple eviction proceedings.

In a financial disclosure form, Santos had reported making $750,000 a year plus dividends from a family company, the Devolder Organisation. He later described that business as a broker for sales of luxury items including yachts and aircraft.

The business was incorporated in Florida shortly after Santos stopped working as a salesman for a company accused by federal authorities of operating an illegal Ponzi scheme.

Santos's congressional office referred requests for comment to his counsel. A lawyer for Santos did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the charge.

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