George Santos inks deal to avoid prosecution in Brazil over bad checks

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A day after New York Rep. George Santos pleaded not guilty to charges in the U.S., he signed an agreement Thursday with public prosecutors in Brazil to avoid prosecution for forging two stolen checks in 2008.

“What would have been the start of a case was ended today,” Santos’ lawyer in Brazil, Jonymar Vasconcelos, told The Associated Press in a text message. “As such, my client is no longer the subject of any case in Brazil.”

Asked about the details of the non-prosecution agreement, Vasconcelos demurred, citing the fact the case proceeded under seal. The public prosecutors' office of Rio de Janeiro state also declined to comment when contacted by the AP.

Court records in Brazil, first uncovered by The New York Times, show Santos was the subject of a criminal charge for using two stolen checks to buy items at a shop in the city of Niteroi, including a pair of sneakers that he gifted to a friend. At the time, Santos would have been 19. The purchase totaled 2,144 Brazilian reais, then equal to about $1,350, according to the charge prosecutors filed in 2011.

That followed an investigation opened in 2008 and Santos’ signed confession, in which he admitted to having stolen the checkbook of his mother’s former employer from her purse and making purchases, including in the store, and recognizing the fraudulent checks as those he had signed, according to the court documents reviewed by the AP.

A judge accepted the charges against Santos in 2011, but subsequent subpoenas for him to appear personally or present a written defense went unanswered and, with authorities repeatedly unable to determine his whereabouts, the case was suspended in 2013. That changed after he won a U.S. congressional seat and the subsequent flurry of media attention focused on his dubious credentials. Rio state prosecutors then petitioned to reopen the case.

Per terms of the non-prosecution agreement, Santos will pay 24,000 reais (almost $5,000), with the majority going to the shopkeeper who received the bad checks and the remainder to charities, newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported, without saying how it obtained the information. Santos attended the meeting virtually, the paper reported.

Resolution of the case removes the possibility Santos might have been obliged to travel to another country to resolve pending charges; that could have been been complicated after he was forced to surrender his passport after recent charges in the U.S.

On Wednesday in New York, Santos pleaded not guilty to charges he stole from his campaign and lied to Congress about being a millionaire, while collecting unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve.