On Wednesday, New York Rep. George Santos surrendered to federal authorities and is expected to appear in court to address 13 charges of fraud and theft that are outlined in a just-unsealed indictment. Slate just published a deep dive into what Santos may have been up to financially during his campaign for Congress, and you can (and should!) read that here. But if you’re looking for a takeaway from his indictment, it’s that he’s been charged with three groups of crimes that touch on some—but not nearly all—of the questions that have been raised about him in recent months.
Here’s what he’s charged with:
• Directing a political operative to solicit payments from political donors to a company that Santos controlled under the pretense that the money was going to be spent legally to support his campaign—but then transferring that money to his own personal bank account instead, and using it for his own personal expenses. This charge appears to have been related to the activities outlined in a Times piece and other reporting on Santos’ interactions with a New York businessman named Andrew Intrater. (Intrater is not accused of a crime.)
• Applying for and receiving unemployment insurance in 2020 and 2021, despite having been fully employed at the time by an investment firm. (The investment firm in question shut down after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused it of operating as a Ponzi scheme, but Santos wasn’t named in the SEC’s suit and, perhaps surprisingly, does not appear to be suspected of having been a participant in its alleged fraud.)
• Failing to report a small amount of income that he received from that investment firm (which was called Harbor City Capital) on a House of Representatives campaign disclosure form and then, conversely, reporting a large amount of income from a personal business called the Devolder Organization on a different disclosure form that he did not actually receive in “the reported amounts.”
This last item is the one that strongly suggests that Santos will face further charges down the line. As outlined in Slate’s deep dive, there are a number of red flags in Santos’ campaign finance filings, of which the biggest is a personal loan of $700,000 or so that he claimed to have given the campaign. The presumable source of that $700,000 was the alleged income Santos received from the Devolder Organization.
The indictment says he didn’t receive the amount he claimed from the Devolder Organization, but it also doesn’t say he didn’t receive any money from the Devolder Organization at all, and there is evidence that the entity did do something resembling real business, at least at times.
How much did Santos really make from Devolder, and what was the purpose of reporting income that didn’t exist? If he did actually loan his campaign $700,000, where did it really come from, and if he didn’t, how did he stand to benefit from a fake loan? Wednesday’s indictment doesn’t say. It also doesn’t address various other glaring problems with Santos’ campaign filings, like listed donors who don’t seem to exist and the huge number of expenses that the campaign allegedly made for $199, just under the amount for which it would have needed to keep receipts.
Santos has now been formally accused of misusing campaign-related money for personal expenses, which always seemed as if it was going to be part of the explanation for what was going on with him. But there’s still a lot of money left to account for.