In a sign that federal prosecutors are investigating gay Rep. George Santos’s (R-NY) campaign finances, the Justice Department (DOJ) has reportedly asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement actions against the freshman member of congress who has become notorious for fabricating much of his resume prior to his election last November.
The Washington Post reports that two anonymous sources familiar with the DOJ request confirmed that prosecutors are conducting a parallel criminal probe into Santos’s campaign finances and that the FEC has been asked to hand over any relevant documents.
Earlier this month, the campaign watchdog group Campaign Legal Center asked the FEC to investigate the $705,000 that Santos said he loaned to his campaign. Considering he declared an income of $55,000 in 2020, the group wants the FEC to find out “how he could have done so with his own funds.”
More recently, the Santos campaign submitted paperwork to the FEC last week listing consultant Thomas Datwyler as its new treasurer. The paperwork reportedly included Datwyler’s signature. However, Datwyler’s attorney Derek Ross told multiple news outlets that his client had told Santos’s office that he didn’t want the position and had never signed the documents.
Santos also recently appeared to have admitted that large amounts of money he claimed were “personal” loans to his campaign came from elsewhere when he filed several amended campaign finance reports.
“Basically they don’t want two sets of investigators tripping over each other,” former FEC commissioner David M. Mason said of the DOJ’s request. “And they don’t want anything that the FEC, which is a civil agency, does to potentially complicate their criminal case.”
The DOJ’s request “indicates there’s an active criminal investigation” of issues that overlap with the FEC’s probes, according to Brett Kappel, a D.C.-based campaign finance lawyer.
As the Post notes, the FEC has identified multiple problems with Santos’s filings over the past two years, including accepting contributions beyond the allowable limit, omitting required donor information, and failing to fill out required forms reporting details about the loans Santos claims to have made to his campaign.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also reportedly interviewed two people, Christian Lopez and Tiffany Bogosian, who say that Santos solicited investments from them for Harbor City Capital, where he worked for over a year. The SEC shut down the investment firm in 2021 accusing it of operating a “classic Ponzi scheme” shortly after Santos left his position there.
“They were asking things like ‘What did he talk about? What did he offer you? What were the names that he mentioned?’” Lopez said of his interview with the SEC.
“They wanted to know specifics of George’s involvement and the pitch,” Bogosian said.
Among the many fictions Santos pedaled to voters were his claims that he graduated from Baruch College and New York University, worked directly for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and that his mother died as a result of the 9/11 attacks. He has been accused of stealing from former roommates and of stealing money from a fundraiser for a military vet’s dying dog.
A recent Siena College poll found that 71 percent of New York City suburbanites think Santos should resign. Six Republican congresspeople from New York and the Nassau County Republican Party have also called on him to resign. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has continued to back Santos, even granting him committee assignments. Santos has said repeatedly that he has no intention of stepping down.