New York congressman George Santos arrested on criminal charges

Republican US congressman George Santos has been charged by federal prosecutors with fraud, cash laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to the Home of Representatives.

The 34-year-old appeared in a courtroom on New York’s Lengthy Island on Wednesday afternoon, the place he pleaded not responsible to a 13-count indictment and was launched on a $500,000 bond.

He’s accused of misappropriating tens of hundreds of {dollars} in political donations and mendacity about his true earnings as soon as elected.

“It’s a witch hunt, it is mindless,” Santos instructed reporters gathered outdoors the courthouse.

“I’ve been complying all through this complete course of. I’m going to care for clearing my title”.

Santos was elected in November’s midterm congressional elections. His victory flipped a Lengthy Island district beforehand held by a Democrat, serving to Republicans to regain management of the Home. However he has since confronted a sequence of scandals after he was discovered to have lied about his schooling, employment historical past, ethnicity and household background.

Breon Peace, US legal professional for the Japanese District of New York, mentioned Santos had “used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully utilized for unemployment advantages that ought to have gone to New Yorkers who had misplaced their jobs as a result of pandemic, and lied”.

The indictment is a blow to Home Republicans who’ve change into more and more embarrassed by Santos’s presence however can not afford to lose him given their slim majority within the decrease chamber of Congress.

A number of Republicans from the average New York suburbs have known as for him to step down, and others within the area have chimed in. “The earlier he leaves, the earlier we are able to win the seat with somebody who isn’t a liar,” Nicole Malliotakis, a New York Metropolis Republican, instructed Axios this week.

Home Speaker Kevin McCarthy has not gone that far and will solely achieve this if Santos is convicted. Santos, below rising strain, stepped down earlier this yr from the congressional committees to which he was assigned.

Chatting with reporters on Wednesday, Steve Scalise, the Home majority chief, signalled that Republicans within the decrease chamber weren’t going to maneuver rapidly to oust Santos. “There’s a authorized course of, the costs simply got here out, we simply noticed a few of them this morning. In America, there’s a presumption of innocence, however these are critical expenses.”

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic chief within the Home, mentioned in a tweet: “The get together of George Santos and Marjorie Taylor Greene can’t be trusted to control. Not now. Not ever,” lumping within the indicted New York congressman with the pro-Trump firebrand Georgia lawmaker identified for embracing conspiracy theories.

Mitt Romney, a Republican senator from Utah who has clashed with Santos up to now, mentioned: “He has demonstrated by his untruthfulness that he shouldn’t be in the USA Congress — maybe mustn’t even be on the general public streets.”

Within the 20-page indictment unsealed on Wednesday, federal prosecutors alleged Santos used $50,000 in marketing campaign donations from two individuals, who have been instructed the cash can be partly used for marketing campaign commercials, to purchase designer clothes and pay his private money owed in addition to funnel funds to his associates.

Additionally they alleged Santos repeatedly filed for unemployment insurance coverage throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, receiving a complete of greater than $24,000 regardless of making $120,000 a yr as an worker of a Florida funding fund.

As soon as elected, Santos vastly overstated his earnings and his property to the Home, the indictment alleged, making himself out to be a multimillionaire.

If discovered responsible on all expenses, Santos might spend the remainder of his life in jail.

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