The 34-year-old Republican, whose 3rd District represents parts of Nassau County and Queens, pleaded not guilty to all 13 federal charges against him during his arraignment in Central Islip on Wednesday afternoon, May 10.
He is charged with:
- Seven counts of wire fraud
- Three counts of money laundering
- Theft of public funds
- Two counts of making false statements on federal disclosure forms
Following his plea, a judge ordered him released from custody on a $500,000 bond.
According to the unsealed indictment, Santos engaged in three separate fraudulent schemes, “relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself.”
Among them was creating a phony limited liability company to solicit campaign contributions during his run for Congress in the fall of 2022, according to prosecutors.
At least two donors each contributed $25,000 to the company believing the money would go toward helping get Santos elected, including the purchasing of TV ads.
Shortly after the funds were received, Santos is alleged to have transferred the combined $50,000 to his personal bank account and spent it on things like designer clothing and paying off debts.
Prosecutors also allege that Santos illegally received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits in New York during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite working as a regional director of a Florida-based investment firm and earning a salary of $120,000.
He reportedly received the assistance from June 2020 and April 2021, during which time he allegedly “falsely affirmed each week that he was eligible for unemployment benefits when he was not,” reads the indictment.
Finally, federal prosecutors are accusing Santos of lying to Congress about his finances during both of his runs in 2020 and 2022.
Prior to each election, Santos allegedly submitted financial disclosure statements to the House in which he overstated his income and assets.
He is also accused of omitting the fact that in 2021, he received approximately $28,000 in income from an investment company, and more than $28,000 in unemployment insurance benefits in New York.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Santos took a page from former President Donald Trump’s playbook and blasted the criminal case as a “witch hunt,” and said he has “plenty of evidence” to prove his innocence.
“I have my right to fight to prove my innocence as the government has the right to try to find me guilty,” he said.
Asked whether he would resign his seat in Congress, Santos said he would not and again vowed to seek re-election in 2024.
He also suggested that his legal troubles may lend themselves to a more lucrative deal in the future, telling reporters, “This has been an experience for a book or something like that.”
Santos is scheduled to appear back in court on Friday, June 30.
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