Within two years, George Santos had gone from being a little-known candidate to becoming a sign of the Republican Party’s unexpected resurgence in a deep blue state.
But a swirling cloud of suspicion surrounds Mr. Santos as he prepares to speak in the House of Representatives on Tuesday to swear an oath to serve the Constitution and the country.
Mr Santos admitted to fabricating important parts of his educational and professional background after a New York Times investigation revealed inconsistencies in his resume and questions about his financial dealings. Federal and local prosecutors are investigating whether the suspect made any crimes or misleading statements regarding his financial situation. Now, new reports show that his lies began years before he entered politics.
Mr Santos was due to attend Congress, facing significant pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Reaching Mr Santos was difficult. He did not respond to phone calls, text messages or emails asking The Times to respond to his news. Earlier this week, Mr Santos’ lawyer responded to an email asking about the unusual spending of his campaign, saying it was “ridiculous” to suggest that funds were spent irresponsibly. Mr Santos did not respond to an email sent to him and his lawyer on Friday, asking for comment on new reports of inconsistencies in his past.
Members of his own party have called for more detailed descriptions of his behavior, and Nick LaLota, also an elected Republican representative from Long Island, called for a House ethics inquiry.
Kentucky Representative James R. Comer, the new Republican chair of the House Oversight Committee, told Fox News Thursday night that he is “quite confident” that the House Ethics Committee will open an investigation into Mr. Santos. What a disgrace Santos did. He lied to the voters.”
New York Democrats have also made it clear that they want to subject Mr. Santos to deeper scrutiny. Incoming Democratic leader Representative Hakeem Jeffries said Mr Santos was “unfit to serve”. Representative Ritchie Torres said he plans to introduce another Law to Stop Incorrect Office Seekers – the SANTOS Act – which would require House of Representatives candidates to give details of their background under oath.
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who may have the most important role in his future in the House, remained silent when asked about The Times reporting and Mr Santos’ interviews in support of this.
It remains unclear how the debate will affect Mr Santos’s debut in Congress, including his committee appointments. Mr. Santos told NY1 last month that he hopes to serve on House Financial Services or Foreign Affairs committees based on his “14-year background in the capital markets” and “multicultural background”. He has since admitted that he misrepresented his work in the financial services field, while some aspects of his legacy were called into question.
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Recent news from The Times reveals a clearer picture of his previous life, including information about gaps in his personal history and inconsistencies in how his mother described his life.
Mr Santos said he grew up in a basement in Jackson Heights, Queens. By Wednesday, Mr Santos’ campaign biography said his mother, Fatima Devolder, was working to become “the first female director of a major financial institution.” She also said she was in the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001 attacks and died “a few years later”.
In fact, Ms. Devolder died in 2016 and at that time a Brazilian community newspaper described her as the cook. Friends and former roommates of Mr. Santos remembered him as a hardworking, friendly woman who spoke only Portuguese and earned her living by cleaning the house and selling food. None of the people interviewed by The Times remembered any instances of him working in finance, and many attributed the story to Mr. Santos’ propensity to create legends.
His blatant fabrications about his own life begin with his claims about his high school. He said he attended Horace Mann School, a prestigious private institution in the Bronx, and dropped out in 2006 without graduating and earning an equivalency diploma. A spokesperson for Horace Mann said the school has no record of his attendance.
In 2008 court records show that Mr. Santos and his mother lived in the city of Niterói, just outside Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil. According to court records, Mr Santos broke into a small clothing store just a month before his 20th birthday and spent about $700 in 2008 using a stolen checkbook and a fake name.
Mr. Santos has denied having committed a crime in the United States or abroad. But his Brazilian record shows he confessed to fraud to both police and shopkeepers.
“I know I screwed this up, but I want to pay,” he wrote to the owner of the store on Orkut, a popular social media site in Brazil, in August 2009. above.”
In November 2010, Mr. Santos and his mother appeared before the police, where they both admitted that he was responsible. On September 13, 2011, a Brazilian judge ordered Mr Santos to respond to the case. Three months later, a court official tried to subpoena him, but he could not be found.
According to company records, he was back in New York at the time and was working at the Dish Network call center in College Point, Queens.
Interviews with half a dozen former friends and colleagues who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid being dragged into Mr Santos’ controversies show that Mr Santos reinvented himself when he returned to New York. Keep doing it in the years to come. They portray Mr. Santos as an endeavor, whose propensity to embellish and one-man mastery has caused doubts about his many alleged achievements.
He told some that he was a journalist for a famous news organization in Brazil, but no one could find his name on his website. He said he took classes at Baruch College, but none of his friends remember him studying. He boasted of the glory of Wall Street, but often seemed to be short of cash, sometimes taking loans from friends that he didn’t always pay back.
When he joined a travel technology company called MetGlobal, Mr. Santos portrayed himself as a man with family money. But two former co-workers said the salary was modest and the job didn’t match up with Mr. Santos’ portrayal as a financier spending time after bad bets lost him on Wall Street.
Not everything in the stated biography of Mr. Santos was a lie. A LinkBridge document supports his claim as vice president. Several former colleagues have confirmed that he works for MetGlobal, a subsidiary called HotelsPro. Records reviewed by The Times confirmed his claim that he received his high school equivalency degree in New York in 2006.
According to public records, Mr. Santos traveled to Florida in 2016 when HotelsPro opened an office in Orlando. Mr Santos told Newsday in 2019 that he briefly went there on business. She got her Florida driver’s license and signed up to vote in the 2016 election.
Those who knew him remembered that Mr. Santos was a longtime follower of Republican politics and cursed at the then mayor of New York, Hillary Clinton and Bill de Blasio.
One of those close to Mr. Santos was Pedro Vilarva. Mr. Vilarva met Mr. Santos in 2014 when he was 18 and Mr. Santos was 26. Mr Vilarva found her attractive and sweet. They dated for a few months before Mr. Santos suggested living together. Mr Vilarva said he felt on top of the world, even though he said he paid most of the bills himself.
“He said he would get money from Citigroup, he was an investor,” Mr. Vilarva recalled. “One day it’s one thing, another day it’s another. In fact, he never went to work.”
Mr. Vilarva said relations between the two men began to unravel in early 2015, after Mr. Santos surprised him when it was revealed they did not have Hawaii tickets. Around the same time, he said he discovered his cell phone was missing and believed that Mr. Santos had pawned it.
The betrayal caused Mr. Santos to type his name into a search engine, where he found that Mr. Santos was wanted by the Brazilian police.
“I woke up in the morning, packed my stuff in garbage bags, called my dad and left,” she said.
Looking back, Mr. Vilarva said he was young and naive: he wanted to believe in the many stories of Mr. Santos and the life they shared. Today he is concerned about the impact Mr Santos may have as an elected official.
“I was afraid that someone like that with so much power would be responsible,” he said.
André Spigariol and Manuela Andreoni contributed reporting from Brazil.