George Santos – the gay Congressmember-elect from New York who admitted to lying about his past – is set to be sworn into Congress today as Brazil re-opens a fraud investigation into him for crimes he allegedly committed over a decade ago.
Meanwhile, one of his new out gay colleagues is trying to pass a law to make sure that members of Congress can be punished for lying about their backgrounds.
After being elected to represent New York’s Third Congressional District and becoming the first out gay Republican elected to Congress, Santos’ life story came crumbling down as several newspapers reported he never went to the colleges he said he attended, never worked for the major banks he said he worked for, and that he had been lying about his family history as well. He has admitted to many of these lies, calling them “a little bit of fluff” on his resume.
But that won’t stop Republican leadership from swearing him in at noon today as a member of Congress, along with all the incoming members of the 118th Congress. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) – the leading contender to be elected Speaker of the House today – has not commented on Santos’s history of lies.
While U.S. Republican leadership doesn’t appear willing to do anything against Santos, prosecutors in Brazil are reportedly reviving an investigation into fraud Santos allegedly committed over a decade ago. They said that the original investigation was dropped when no one could find Santos, but now his public profile has helped them locate him again.
Prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro believe that Santos stole a checkbook in 2008 and used it to spend $700 while using a fake name at a clothing store in Niterói, Brazil.
Santos has denied wrongdoing in the case: “I am not a criminal here – not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world. Absolutely not. That didn’t happen.”
Santos was charged with embezzlement in 2011 but court records in Brazil show that the charge was “archived” because court summons went unanswered and authorities didn’t know where Santos was.
Last week, Santos admitted that he lied about graduating from Baruch College and New York University, working directly for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and living at a fake address in his congressional district. He provided no additional proof to back up claims that he founded a charity called Friends of Pets, that his grandparents escaped the Holocaust, and that he lost four employees in the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.
His ex-boyfriend, Pedro Vilarva, said that, while they lived together, he paid many bills for Santos. He suspects that Santos stole and pawned his phone for cash.
“He used to say he would get money from Citigroup, he was an investor,” Vilarva said. “One day it’s one thing, one day it’s another thing. He never ever actually went to work.”
After finding online proof that Santos had faced legal charges in Brazil for forging checks belonging to his mother’s client, Vilarva packed all of his belongings into trash bags and moved out. Santos has since denied any wrongdoing, though Brazilian records show he admitted to the check forging at the time.
While Santos’s Republican colleagues seem to be mostly supportive of him – Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has spoken out forcefully in his defense – his LGBTQ+ colleagues are not quite as forgiving. The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus has called on him to resign.
“When Representative-Elect Santos was first elected, we were hoping to find common ground that would allow us to work together to advance LGBTQ+ equality, despite our many differences,” the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus said in a statement. “However, integrity and honesty are central to being a member of the House of Representatives and to properly represent your community — both one’s district and the LGBTQ+ community. Mr. Santos has demonstrated that he lacks these values.”
Fellow gay New Yorker, out Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), has gone so far as to promise to introduce a bill this year to make it illegal for candidates for Congress to lie about their educations, employment histories, and military backgrounds. He even named the bill after Santos.
“I am introducing a bill to require candidates to disclose under oath their employment, educational, & military history so we can punish candidates who lie to voters about their qualifications,” he tweeted last week. “It will be called the Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker (SANTOS) Act.”
BIG NEWS: I am introducing a bill to require candidates to disclose under oath their employment, educational, & military history so we can punish candidates who lie to voters about their qualifications.
It will be called the Stop Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker (SANTOS) ACT. pic.twitter.com/IpBhzAsDbt
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) December 30, 2022