Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) continues to face numerous, repeated calls for his resignation from Democrats and some Republicans over the ways he — to put it mildly — misrepresented himself to the voting public.
The freshman representative acknowledged in December that he had “embellished” his résumé but asserted he did nothing “criminal.” He told Piers Morgan that he did it so Republicans would “accept” him.
While Republicans in his home county want him gone, the response on Capitol Hill has been less decisive. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has suggested he would only take action against Santos if he were convicted of a crime. McCarthy even gave Santos committee assignments — although not the ones he wanted, due to the objections of other Republicans, according to CNN. Santos “temporarily recused” himself from the committees in late January to allow the various investigations to play out.
Santos ― or the congressman known as George Santos ― has certainly had a rough start to his two-year term. But he has flatly, repeatedly refused the idea of resignation, even as it seems that wild tales about his past are endlessly coming to light. He ran for Congress one other time, in 2020, so there are several years’ worth of interviews, appearances and campaign materials in which Santos shared parts of his (alleged) backstory.
Santos told the New York Post that he is not a criminal, “not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world.” Speaking on the far-right pundit Steve Bannon’s podcast, he claimed he’s lived “an honest life.”
“I just pray for all of you, when they come for you, that you have the same strength I have,” he said, per NPR.
Here is a list of things Santos is accused of lying about.
The 34-year-old has not always gone by “George Santos.” According to CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski, his aliases include Anthony Santos, George Devolder, Anthony Zabrovsky and George Anthony Santos-Devolder, among others. (Devolder was his mother’s surname.)
Video emerged earlier this year showing Santos introduce himself as Anthony Devolder at a 2019 event in support of then-President Donald Trump.
His Jewish Heritage
Following his election win in November, Santos addressed a Republican Jewish Coalition summit in Las Vegas, where he was billed as a Jewish Republican. He identified himself as a “proud American Jew” in campaign materials obtained by the Jewish news outlet Forward. But when his heritage was called into question, Santos told the New York Post that he never claimed to be Jewish. “I said I was ‘Jew-ish,’” he said.
He has claimed that Zabrovsky is his family’s original, Jewish last name. But a professional genealogist told CNN there was no indication of a name change in his lineage.
Republican Jewish groups were not pleased.
That He’s A Descendant Of Holocaust Survivors From Ukraine
Santos told Fox News in 2021 that his grandparents “escaped socialism ... communism and the Holocaust,” and he repeated the claim during his campaign. His grandfather was originally from Ukraine, Santos said, and fled to Brazil to escape the Nazis. Yet the Forward and CNN reported that records on genealogy and Jewish refugees did not back up Santos’ story. Rather, the outlets found evidence that his grandparents were born in Brazil. The New York Times found the same.
That His Mother Was In The Twin Towers On 9/11 ...
Santos tweeted in 2021 that “9/11 claimed my mothers life.” His campaign website states that his mother had been inside the World Trade Center’s south tower and survived the attack, passing away a “few years” later of cancer.
But records obtained by The New York Times show that Santos’ mother was not even living in the country at the time ― she was in Brazil. An obituary for Santos’ mother, Fatima Devolder, states that she died in 2016.
... And That She Was The ‘First Female Executive At A Major Financial Institution’
In immigration documents reviewed by The New York Times, Santos’ mother said she worked as a housekeeper and home aide — not as the “first female executive at a major financial institution,” as the congressman has said. People who knew Santos’ mother recalled that she made a living cleaning houses and selling food, according to the outlet.
She was also born in Brazil, and not Belgium, as Santos had claimed, according to CNN.
How He Paid For His Campaign
Campaign finance disclosure forms originally showed Santos lending his campaign $700,000, the Times said. He claimed that he earned a salary of $750,000 from a company called the Devolder Organization (more on that later).
Amended forms filed Jan. 24, however, showed that at least $650,000 in those campaign funds had actually not come from Santos himself, raising the question of where the money did come from. An unusual spending pattern at an Italian restaurant in Queens has also raised eyebrows.
The source of Santos’ supposed personal wealth is also uncertain. Federal prosecutors said in charging papers that Santos illegally misrepresented his personal finances and assets on campaign disclosure forms.
In his mid-to-late 20s, the 34-year-old Santos seemed to struggle with financial difficulties; the Times found that he faced eviction twice in the Queens borough of New York City. But a few years later, during his 2022 campaign, Santos was reportedly spending tens of thousands of dollars on travel, restaurants and hotels in New York, Florida, Texas and California, the Times reported. He raised so much money that he donated some of it to other Republican candidates.
A subsequent New York Times investigation found questionable dealings by a political group that raised funds for Santos, RedStone Strategies. The Washington Post found ties to the cousin of a sanctioned Russian oligarch.
In May, federal prosecutors alleged that Santos illegally pocketed some of the campaign donations and used them to pay for expensive clothes and other personal items.
Asked by a Brazilian radio journalist to explain the source of his wealth, Santos laughed and said: “Indiscreet question. Let’s just say that we live comfortably nowadays.” (Santos said he is married to a man and they have four dogs, three named after Disney characters.)
That He Worked In Finance For His Family’s Business
The Devolder Organization was described on a Santos campaign website as his “family’s firm,” The New York Times reported. But information on the company, which has no public website or LinkedIn page, is scant, the Times said. Santos reportedly described it as an outfit that links investment funds to wealthy investors, but it is not clear who the company’s clients were. He told Semafor that he performed services like helping wealthy people find yachts to buy.
He didn’t just work for the supposed family biz; Santos also worked for the Florida investment firm Harbor City Capital, where he was hired in 2020 under the name George Devolder. The firm was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of running a Ponzi scheme and shut down in 2021.
That His Family Had A Fortune In Real Estate
Despite his claims to the contrary, The New York Times found no records of real estate properties belonging to Santos or his immediate family in the U.S. (On required campaign disclosure forms, Santos only disclosed an apartment in Rio de Janeiro.)
That He Has Survived An ‘Assassination Attempt’
“We have already suffered an attempt on my life, an assassination attempt,” Santos told the Brazilian podcast “Rádio Novelo Apresenta,” according to a translation provided by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
Santos mentioned two incidents of violence: one an alleged break-in at his home in January 2021 and the other a mugging in the summer of 2021. But he did not specify whether he considered either one to be an “assassination attempt.”
In regard to the muggers, Santos made sure to note: “And before you ask, they weren’t Black; they were white, as a matter of fact.”
That 4 Of His Employees Died In The Pulse Nightclub Shooting
In an interview with WNYC, Santos said that people working for him were killed during the 2016 attack on an Orlando gay nightclub. The New York Times found no connections to him or the various companies he’s worked for among the 49 people who died at Pulse.
That He Went To An Elite New York City Prep School
Horace Mann told CNN it has no record that Santos ever attended. The private school also checked for aliases.
Santos had claimed in a 2020 YouTube video that his parents lost money in the real estate market and that he had to drop out four months before graduation, later earning a GED diploma.
“Unfortunately my parents fell on hard times, which was ... something that would later become known as the depression of 2008,” Santos said. “But we were hit a little earlier on with the over-leveraging of real estate.”
That He Graduated From College
Santos claimed he graduated from Baruch College and New York University, but both institutions told several news outlets they had no record of him ever attending.
He claimed on a resume that his GPA at Baruch was 3.89 and that he graduated summa cum laude.
He eventually told the New York Post he didn’t graduate from any college.
That He Was A College Volleyball Star
In 2020, Santos appeared on a morning radio show where he said that he went to Baruch on a volleyball scholarship and “slayed” teams from Harvard and Yale.
“I sacrificed both my knees and got very nice knee replacements, knee replacements from playing volleyball,” Santos claimed on air.
That He Worked For Goldman Sachs And Citigroup
The New York Times reported that neither Wall Street behemoth could come up with any record of Santos’ employment there, as he had claimed. Santos later told the New York Post that the assertion was a “poor choice of words,” as he did not work “directly” for the companies. He also told Fox News that his claim was “not false at all” but rather “debatable.”
According to Politico, Santos even told a judge in 2017 that he worked for Goldman Sachs.
That He Survived A Brain Tumor
“I had radiation done, which really, really lowers your immunity in general,” he said. “I’m susceptible to cancer. It’s in my DNA, right?”
The comment came as Santos recounted his experience with COVID-19, which he said he caught in the earliest days of the pandemic. He also said he suffers from “acute chronic bronchitis.”
That He Did Not Commit Unemployment Fraud At The Height Of The Pandemic
Federal prosecutors allege that Santos collected almost $25,000 in pandemic-related unemployment assistance from the state of New York while earning a $120,000 salary in Florida.
Santos has denied breaking the law, saying he has “plenty of evidence” to prove it.
That He Ran An Animal Charity ...
There is no record that Santos’ supposed charity, Friends of Pets United, ever existed as a legitimate tax-exempt organization, The New York Times reported after checking with the IRS and attorney general offices in New York and New Jersey. The Times said he claimed that he ran a tax-exempt pet charity for five years starting in 2013 ― around the same time he faced apparent financial trouble.
... And That He Did Not Swindle A Homeless Veteran With A Sick Dog
Santos denies an alarming story from a Navy veteran, Richard Osthoff, who told a New Jersey outlet that he got in touch with Santos in 2016 for help financing surgery for his beloved dog, Sapphire. Osthoff said that at the time, he was living in a tent on the side of a highway, and there was no way he could afford the stomach cancer treatment for his pit bull mix. A veterinary technician pointed him to Friends of Pets United.
Santos, whom Osthoff knew as Anthony Devolder, allegedly helped him raise $3,000 through GoFundMe that summer, but the veteran said he never saw a dime. He said Santos closed the fundraiser and stopped answering texts and calls. A GoFundMe spokesperson told The Washington Post that the fundraiser was real, and that the company had banned Santos’ email address from being used on the service.
Sapphire died in January 2017.
That He Was Definitely Not The Ringleader Of A Credit Card Fraud Scheme
A former roommate, Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha, alleged in a sworn statement that Santos was the mastermind behind a 2017 credit card scheme that out Trelha behind bars.
Trelha said Santos taught him how to skim information off credit cards and how to clone the cards. The process allegedly included setting up skimming devices and cameras on ATMs. Trelha even claimed that Santos stole the money collected for his bail.
Santos called the story “insanity” and labeled it “categorically false.”
His Alleged Check Fraud In Brazil
In 2008, Brazilian authorities accused Santos of stealing a checkbook from an elderly man and fraudulently spending $700. The investigation was stymied by their inability to locate Santos, according to The New York Times. But with his election to Congress, Brazilian authorities reopened the case and reportedly came to an agreement with Santos. Part of the deal included a formal admission that Santos did the crime and would pay damages to the elderly man whose checkbook was taken, according to CNN.
And That He Never Performed In Brazil As A Drag Queen Called Kitara
Santos said the suggestion that he was a drag performer is “categorically false.”
“The media continues to make outrageous claims about my life while I am working to deliver results,” he tweeted this week.
At This Point ...
This piece has been updated to reflect the federal criminal charges against Rep. George Santos.