Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) was arrested Wednesday on 13 federal charges over allegations of fraud and misrepresentation to donors, the public, and government agencies.
The charges include seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. Santos pleaded not guilty Wednesday and was released on a $500,000 bond. His next court appearance is June 30 before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert.
The charges stem from three alleged schemes in which Santos is accused of misdirecting potential donors, falsely claiming unemployment benefits during the pandemic, and providing false information on financial disclosure forms. The top charge of wire fraud carries a maximum jail sentence of 20 years.
The scandal around Santos has been building since before he was sworn in amid questions about his resume and biography. He has been the subject of intense scrutiny from both parties, with several lawmakers calling for his resignation, and some even saying he should be expelled from Congress.
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) joined the ranks of those calling for Santos’s expulsion, saying “The people of New York’s 3rd district deserve a voice in Congress. George Santos should be immediately expelled from Congress and a special election initiated at the soonest possible date.”
Despite the indictment, however, Santos can remain in Congress and continue to represent his district. According to House Rules, if a member is charged with criminal conduct as a felony that carries a sentence of two or more years in prison, they should resign from committees and step aside from party leadership until legal proceedings result in an acquittal or a dismissal or if charges are reduced to less than a felony. Santos does not serve in House GOP leadership, and he stepped down from his committee assignments in January.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has stopped short of calling on Santos to resign, said he would deal with the developing situation as he has with lawmakers who have been indicted in the past. He referred to those comments on Wednesday when asked about the indictment.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik have not said Santos should resign, stressing that the legal process should play out. Scalise did, however, call the charges “serious.”
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement, “This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations. 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. 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.”