Rep. George Santos’s (R-NY) lawyer told a federal court in New York that his client would rather go to jail until his trial than have the names of the secret guarantors who posted his $500,000 bond made public.
Santos was arraigned last month and faces 13 federal charges, including seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives, and one count of theft of public funds, related to alleged illegal schemes to enrich himself. Santos pleaded not guilty and was released on a $500,000 bond to await his trial.
“What language do I have to say it in?” the frustrated lawyer said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne Shields told him that he would need to find three guarantors for his bond. He found three and the judge approved them. All three went to the courthouse to sign the bond, but their identities weren’t made public.
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As Bloomberg Law noted at the time, this was “a departure from typical federal court practice,” where guarantors are identified in open court and advised of their responsibility to ensure that he returns to court. No documentation was posted about them to the public docket in federal court in Central Islip, New York, either.
Now Santos is fighting to keep their names a secret, saying that they “are likely to suffer great distress, may lose their jobs and, God forbid, may suffer physical injury” if their identities are made public.
“There is little doubt that the suretors will suffer some unnecessary form of retaliation if their identities and employment are revealed,” the lawyer continued, according to CBS News correspondent Scott MacFarlane.
“My client would rather surrender to pretrial detainment than subject these suretors to what will inevitably come.”
The House Ethics Committee has asked Santos about the identities of the guarantors, saying that he “may have solicited or received an improper gift in connection with the bond sureties.”
But his legal team has said that they will not tell the House Ethics Committee unless the court tells them to and claimed that bond sureties are “exceptions to the gift rule.”
The New York Times, in a letter, asked the court to release the names of the guarantors as Santos’s lawyer, Joseph Murray, asked Judge Shields not to release their names, saying that he and Santos “truly fear for their health, safety, and well-being.” He said that if Shields is going to release their names, they should be at least given an opportunity to withdraw as cosigners and promised that Santos would appear in court if they do withdraw.
Shortly after he was elected to Congress, Santos’s entire life story fell apart as multiple media outlets reported that he had made up his educational, career, and family background and couldn’t provide proof for other major events he claimed happened in his life, like employing people who died in the Pulse shooting or that he ran a real charity that helped pets.
He was also accused of numerous crimes, which he denies. Many people also came forward with accusations related to theft and fraud, saying that Santos stole money from roommates, from people with sick pets, and even through an ATM scam. He faces several investigations for campaign finance misdeeds in the House.
He is now being prosecuted in connection to how he allegedly told campaign donors to give money to a private organization that he ran in lieu of giving directly to his campaign – funds that prosecutors claim he took and used for designer clothes and other personal items – and filing for unemployment benefits while being employed to defraud the government of around $25,000.