Embattled Rep. George Santos arrested on counts of fraud, lying to Congress

 Republican lawmaker Rep. George Santos was arrested Wednesday morning and will be arraigned in the afternoon on federal charges including fraud and lying to Congress, the Department of Justice said, marking a significant escalation in the many legal and ethical probes Santos has faced since taking office.

The 13-count indictment was unsealed Wednesday. Santos faces seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of lying to the House of Representatives, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

The charges against Santos aim to hold the freshman lawmaker accountable for numerous alleged "fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” said Breon Peace, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

"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," Peace said.

Santos' indictment and arrest are the latest development in the saga of his rise and fall, from his surprise flip of a New York seat to the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterms to the swift unraveling of his supposed life story. Santos' exaggerations and fabrications about his personal and professional life — revealed in large part after his election to the U.S. House — rapidly elevated the freshman lawmaker's national profile, while drawing intense legal and ethical scrutiny.

Read it yourself:Rep. George Santos indicted. Read the charges here

Santos surrendered to authorities in Long Island Wednesday morning, The New York Times first reported.

The New York congressman announced his reelection bid last month, despite facing an investigation from the House Ethics Committee on top of several state and federal investigations. A subcommittee of two Republicans and two Democrats established by the ethics committee are examining whether Santos engaged in "unlawful activity" during his 2022 campaign and investigating a sexual misconduct allegation involving a staffe

has repeatedly said he would not step down from Congress despite bipartisan calls for his resignation, though he did resign from his committee assignments in January.

Among the claims Santos has made about his personal and professional life that have since been refuted: 

Santos has also faced allegations of questionable campaign finances reporting and pilfering from a fundraising campaign for a dying dog. The embattled Republican lawmaker acknowledged embellishing his educational background and job history, but has denied most of the other allegations.

Fraud charges

Santos allegedly transferred money from political donors into personal bank accounts during his campaign, using the funds for personal expenses, according to the Justice Department. He withdrew cash, discharged personal debts, transferred money to his associates and used the funds to make personal purchases, including of designer clothing, the DOJ claims.

May 10, 2023; Washington, DC, USA; Detail image from the federal indictment of Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. Santos was arrested Wednesday morning and will be arraigned in the afternoon on federal charges including fraud and lying to Congress.

Unemployment insurance

The DOJ also alleged Santos committed unemployment insurance fraud by applying for benefits through the New York State Department of Labor in June 2020, even though he was employed. He allegedly fraudulently received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits as a result.

"From that point until April 2021 — when Santos was working and receiving a salary on a near-continuous basis and during his unsuccessful run for Congress — he falsely affirmed each week that he was eligible for unemployment benefits when he was not," the department said. 

False statements to Congress

Santos also made efforts to mislead the U.S. House and the public about his financial condition in connection with his two congressional campaigns, the DOJ claims.

In March 2020, during his first House campaign, the DOJ alleges Santos falsely claimed in House disclosures that his only earned income — consisting of salary, commission and bonuses — amounted to $55,000 from an unnamed company. He also allegedly said the only compensation exceeding $5,000 was an unspecified commission bonus from that company.

But the Justice Department claims that in actuality, Santos "overstated the income he received from Company #2 and altogether failed to disclose the salary he received from Investment Firm #1."

During the 2022 midterms, the DOJ alleges that Santos made false claims in another disclosure form by including money he did not actually receive and by failing to disclose income and benefits he did receive.

May 10, 2023; Washington, DC, USA; Detail image from the federal indictment of Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. Santos was arrested Wednesday morning and will be arraigned in the afternoon on federal charges including fraud and lying to Congress.

Criticism, calls for expulsion

Ed Cox, head of New York's Republican Party, said in a statement to USA TODAY that the "story of George Santos is over."

"The writing has been on the wall for months: George Santos will not be a member of the next Congress," Cox said. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries used Santos' arrest to criticize the Republican Party.

"The party of George Santos and Marjorie Taylor Greene cannot be trusted to govern," Jeffries said, citing the controversial Georgia Rep. Greene. "Not now. Not ever."

Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, on Wednesday called for Santos' immediate expulsion from Congress.

"The people of New York’s 3rd district deserve a voice in congress," Gonzales said in a tweet. "George Santos should be immediately expelled from Congress and a special election initiated at the soonest possible date."

Read the indictment

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., was indicted on federal charges that included money laundering, an unemployment fraud scheme, and lying to Congress. Read the indictment here.

Contributing: Phillip Bailey

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