Rep. George Santos (R-NY) pleaded not guilty to 13 criminal counts at federal court in New York’s Eastern District.
The 13 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.
Wire fraud is the most serious count, carrying a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. If Santos is found guilty of multiple counts, it would be up to a judge to decide whether he should serve his sentences concurrently or consecutively
According to prosecutors, Santos falsely claimed to have been unemployed in in the summer of 2020 when he applied for benefits through the New York State Department of Labor. He continued to falsely certify his unemployment through the following spring, according to prosecutors, and received more than $24,000 in U.S. Treasury benefits as part of expanded Covid-19 social programs.
Further, Santos tricked his political supporters into giving him money and spent thousands of dollars on designer cloths and credit card payments, prosecutors say.
After pleading not guilty, Santos was to be released on $500,000 bond. His next court appearance in set for June 30.
Santos is already under investigation by Congress. The House Ethics Committee has launched an investigation into alleged misconduct by Santos. A special legislative subcommittee is looking into “whether Representative George Santos may have: engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”
Santos filed for reelection in 2024 on March 14.