Texas man arrested in alleged scam attempt against disgraced former congressman George Santos

NEW YORK (AP) — A Texas man was arrested Wednesday on accusations that he schemed to dupe George Santos into wiring him money with the false promise that he could get the criminal corruption charges against the disgraced congressman dropped.

Federal prosecutors said Hector Medina of El Paso concocted a fake identity as a fixer with connections to judges as he solicited a wire transfer from Santos, then a New York congressman facing his own wire fraud charges and scandal.

There is no indication in the criminal complaint that Santos took Medina up on his alleged offer.

The allegations against Medina as described in court documents appeared far less sophisticated than the interlocking web of fraud and deceit that federal prosecutors said was committed by Santos. The Republican congressman was expelled from the House in December.

Federal agents said they became aware last summer that Medina was pestering Santos with text messages and videos claiming he could “get everything dropped, evidence that is on you removed.” In a text message — they said — Medina requested Santos wire $900,000 to his bank account, assuring him: “I’m the real deal.”

Medina, who also went by the name Michael Soto, used a similar method on several other well-known figures who were facing criminal exposure, according to prosecutors.

He told prosecutors that he knew the scheme was wrong but was seeking to pay off $100,000 in gambling debts, according to authorities. Medina faces a wire fraud charge that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison in event of a conviction. A voicemail left with his attorney was not returned.

Santos, meanwhile, is facing up to 22 years in prison if convicted. The ex-lawmaker faces a slew of criminal charges, including allegations that he defrauded campaign donors, lied to Congress about his wealth, received unemployment benefits while employed and used campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses like designer clothing. He also is alleged to have made unauthorized charges on credit cards belonging to some of his donors.

Santos pleaded not guilty to a revised indictment in October accusing him of several frauds. He is due back in court for a pre-trial conference in August. The ex-congressman did not respond to a text message seeking comment on Medina's arrest.

Last month, Democrat Tom Suozzi won a special election for Santos’ former seat.