Disgraced Congressman George Santos pocketed thousands of dollars of donations intended to save the life of a disabled New Jersey military veteran’s dying service dog, a published report alleges.
Richard Osthoff told Patch.com that he and his beloved Sapphire were living in an abandoned chicken coop on the side of Route 9 in Howell when a veterinary technician hooked him up with a man named Anthony Devolder in May 2016.
George Anthony Devolder Santos purportedly was operating a tax-exempt charity called Friends Of Pets United at the time and hadn’t entered politics yet.
Osthoff said he was encouraged by the effort to help pay for surgery to remove a cancerous stomach tumor from the pit bull he’d brought home from overseas a decade earlier, the Patch story says.
Devolder appealed for help in a variety of places, including Facebook.
“Dear all, When a veteran reaches out to ask for help, how can you say no’,” a post of his reads.
Unfortunately, delays followed – and with it the rapid growth of Sapphire’s tumor. Eventually, Devolder/Santos told him that his beloved companion’s condition didn’t meet GoFundMe’s criteria, Osthoff said.
Devolder/Santos steered Osthoff to a veterinarian in Queens with whom he claimed to have credit. Osthoff said the vet told him Sapphire’s tumor was inoperable – which came as a devastating shock.
Sapphire was dead within months.
“I inhaled her last breaths when I had her euthanized,” Osthoff told Patch.
Devolder/Santos was gone soon after, along with the GoFundMe donations, said Osthoff, who was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2002.
Santos, 34, who entered politics a few years ago, represents parts of Queens and Long Island. The freshman congressman already has admitted to lying about his education, work record -- and then some.
He never had such a charity, according to the IRS. He did, however, leave a trail of text messages with Osthoff.
“I'm starting to feel like I was mined for my family and friends donations,” a text from the Patch story quotes Osthoff telling him.
Both men had one last phone conversation during which Osthoff claims Devolder/Santos told him the money was going “for other dogs” because he hadn’t done things his way.
“Remember it is our credibility that got GoFundMe…to contribute,” one of his final texts to Osthoff reads. “We are audited like every 501c3 and we are with the highest standards of integrity.”
Devolder/Santos then stopped responding to his calls, Osthoff said. Days later, the GoFundMe fundraiser was gone.
Osthoff, who suffers from PTSD, eventually was assisted by Michael Boll, a retired Marine and Union Township police sergeant who at the time led the New Jersey Veterans Network.
Boll told Patch that he tried to negotiate a settlement but that Santos was uncooperative.
Osthoff figured he’d never see the man named Devolder again, but he held onto the texts, anyway.
Then came a blitz of publicity that pushed Santos into the public consciousness – and had Ostoff and Boll immediately on the phone with one another.
Santos, who has refused to relinquish his congressional seat despite mounting criminal investigations, didn’t just leave him with a veterinarian’s bill, Osthoff said.
He couldn’t afford to cremate Sapphire, either, he said.
Osthoff said he was reduced to panhandling on the street to raise the money.
READ THE FULL STORY HERE: Disabled Veteran: George Santos Took $3K From Dying Dog's GoFundMe (Patch.com)
For his part, Santos denied it all.
Referring to Osthoff, he texted the newsite Semafor on Tuesday night: “Fake. No clue who this is."
SEE: George Santos denies swindling a disabled veteran while their dog died of a tumor (Semafor)
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