NEW YORK (AP) — A New York Republican who won a U.S. House seat in November is under pressure to explain himself amid evidence he fabricated parts of his life story.
During his campaign, George Santos, 34, boasted impressive academic and professional credentials and portrayed himself as an embodiment of the American dream. After growing up in a working-class, immigrant family in Queens and getting a high school equivalency diploma, he said he had a lightning-fast rise in the world of finance, culminating in his participation in “landmark deals on Wall Street.”
Yet a college where Santos said he earned a finance degree was unable to find records showing he attended. Several companies where Santos said he worked had no record of him having been an employee.
The potential problems with Santos’ resume were first reported Monday by The New York Times. The newspaper also raised questions about the truthfulness of other aspects of Santos’ life story and disclosed he faced an unresolved criminal fraud investigation in Brazil, where his family once lived.
An attorney for Santos didn’t answer questions about his personal history but suggested he was being targeted by people “threatened” by his politics.
“It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at the New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations,” the lawyer, Joseph Murray, said in a statement.
In a detailed biography formerly posted on his campaign website, Santos said he graduated from Baruch College in 2010 with an economics and finance degree. Baruch, however, said it could find no records indicating that a person with Santos’ name and birthdate had ever graduated.
The biography said Santos then worked at Citigroup, where he became “an associate asset manager in the real asset division.” But a Citigroup spokesperson, Danielle Romero Apsilos, said the company had no records indicating Santos had ever been an employee.
Santos’ biography said he later worked for the investment banking giant Goldman Sachs. That firm also said it had no record of his employment.
A different biography posted on the website of the National Republican Congressional Committee said Santos had earned a second degree at New York University. A spokesman for NYU said it could also find no records indicating Santos had been a student. An email was sent to the NRCC asking how the information had been obtained.
Santos also said he worked at two other companies, LinkBridge Investors and Metglobal. Two emails and a message seeking comment from LifeBridge were unanswered, as were two emails sent to Metglobal.
Records in Brazil, uncovered by the Times, show Santos was the subject of a criminal investigation there in 2008 over allegations that he used stolen checks to buy items at an apparel shop in the city of Niteroi. At the time, Santos would have been 19. The records include photos of Santos with members of his family. The Times quoted local prosecutors saying the case was dormant because Santos had never appeared in court.
Santos first ran for Congress in 2020, losing to Tom Suozzi, a Democrat. He ran again in 2022, facing Democrat Robert Zimmerman in a district that includes some Long Island suburbs and a small slice of Queens.
In a statement posted to social media, Zimmerman called for investigations by the House Ethics Committee, the Federal Elections Commission and federal prosecutors.
“Santos’ failure to answer any of the questions about these allegations demonstrates why he is unfit for public office and should resign,” Zimmerman said.
Joseph Cairo Jr., chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee called the issues “serious” but said Santos deserved a chance to address them.
“Every person deserves an opportunity to ‘clear’ his/her name in the face of accusations,” Cairo said in a statement. “I am committed to this principle, and I look forward to the Congressman-Elect’s responses to the news reports.”
On social media, Santos portrayed himself as a successful real estate investor whose family owned multiple properties. Yet records indicate he had financial problems. Court records indicate Santos was the subject of three eviction proceedings in Queens between 2014 and 2017 because of unpaid rent.
In the summer of 2020, Santos was hired by Harbor City Capitol Corp. an investment firm based in Florida. That company, however, ceased operating in 2021 after it was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission of being a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme.
Santos wasn’t named in the SEC complaint. He told The Daily Beast earlier this year that he was shocked by the allegations of wrongdoing.
After leaving Harbor City, Santos registered a company called the Devolder Organization with the state of Florida, state records show.
In the financial disclosure form filed with the House of Representatives in September, Santos reported that the company paid him an annual salary of $750,000 and at least $1 million in dividends. He described the company’s business as “capital intro consulting.” His only other listed asset was an apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which he said was worth between $500,000 and $1 million.
In filings with the Federal Elections Commission, Santos reported having loaned his campaign at least $630,000 from his personal fortune.
Santos was registered to vote at a modest townhouse in Queens that he does not own, but he moved away before the election. His former landlord, Nancy Pothos, 72, said Santos had been a tenant for two years before moving at the end of August.
Santos’ campaign spokesperson and his lawyer didn’t respond to a list of questions about his company, possible discrepancies in his biography or the criminal case in Brazil.