George Santos, who falsely claimed to be Jewish, arrested on federal criminal charges


(New York Jewish Week) — New York Republican Rep. George Santos, who spread a series of falsehoods about being Jewish and other parts of his life story, was arrested Wednesday on federal criminal charges on Long Island.

The indictment said that Santos — who has also gone by other names, including the last name Devolder — used donations to a fraudulent political fund for personal expenses, such as buying designer clothes and paying off his credit cards. 

He was also accused of lying about his finances on congressional disclosure forms and receiving $24,000 in pandemic-era unemployment benefits while still employed at an investment firm. According to a financial disclosure form, Santos reported earning $750,000 a year from a family company, the Devolder Organization, but the charges unsealed on Wednesday allege that Santos never received that sum, nor the other millions in dividends he said came from the firm.

In total, Santos was charged with 13 counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.

Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement that this indictment “seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentation.”

“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” Peace said. “He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives.” 

Santos is expected to make a court appearance Wednesday. He also faces an inquiry by the House Ethics Committee as well as charges in Brazil.

After being elected to Congress in a Republican sweep of Long Island last November, Santos has drawn attention for allegedly lying about large parts of his education, resume and family history. Exposes about Santos cast doubt on a range of his claims, regarding everything from his purported career on Wall Street to his management of an animal welfare charity.

On the campaign trail, Santos repeatedly claimed to be Jewish. But reporting by a number of outlets, including the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, uncovered evidence that he has no Jewish ancestry. In response, Santos falsely said that he never claimed to be Jewish, calling himself “Jew-ish.” 

Some Republican members of Congress, in New York and elsewhere, have called on Santos to resign, as have local Republican leaders in his district. But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, signaled on Wednesday that Santos would be allowed to continue serving.

Anna Kaplan, a Jewish former Democratic state senator from Santos’ district, recently announced that she will run for his seat in next year’s election.