Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday to 13 counts, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to the House of Representatives.
Santos was arraigned in Central Islip, N.Y., after surrendering to federal authorities there earlier Wednesday afternoon. He was released on $500,000 bond, and his next court date was set for June 30. Santos could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors allege that Santos solicited campaign funds under false pretenses and used the money for personal expenses, including to buy designer clothes and to pay his credit card and car payments. They also allege he stole pandemic unemployment money.
"This is a witch hunt," Santos told reporters outside the courthouse after the arraignment, adding that he has no plans to resign — and still intends to run for reelection.
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Federal investigators had been probing fraud allegations stemming from the 34-year-old freshman congressman’s campaign finances, a credit card scheme and a pet charity he used to run.
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “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.”
Ever since arriving in Congress, the Long Island Republican has resisted numerous calls from both Republicans and Democrats that he resign over the lies he told about his biography.