When George Santos, elected as Representative, takes his seat in Congress on Tuesday, he will do so under the shadow of active investigations by federal and local prosecutors into possible criminal activity during his two congressional campaigns.
But an older criminal case may be more urgent: Brazilian law enforcement plans to reopen fraud charges against Mr Santos and will seek his official response, prosecutors told The New York Times on Monday.
The affair, which stemmed from an incident involving a stolen checkbook in 2008, was put on hold for most of the decade as police couldn’t find it.
Nathaly Ducoulombier, spokesperson for the Rio de Janeiro prosecutor’s office, said that “locating” Mr Santos would result in a formal request to the US Department of Justice to report the charges, followed by a necessary step in the case. go with or without it.
The criminal case in Brazil first surfaced in a New York Times investigation that revealed massive discrepancies in his resume and questions about his financial deals.
Just a month before his 20th birthday, Mr. Santos walked into a small clothing store in Niterói, Brazil, outside of Rio de Janeiro. According to court records, he spent about $700 using a stolen checkbook and a fake name.
Mr. Santos admitted the fraud to the shopkeeper in August 2009, writing “I know I’m a father, but I want to pay” on Orkut, a popular social media site in Brazil. In 2010, she and her mother told police that a man her mother used to work for had stolen her checkbook and used it to make fraudulent purchases.
A judge upheld the charge in September 2011 and ordered Mr Santos to respond to the case. But by October, he was already in the United States, working at Dish Network in College Point, Queens, according to company records.
Despite his previous confessions, Mr Santos has recently denied involvement in any crime, telling The New York Post, “I am not a criminal here – I am not a criminal here, in Brazil, or in any jurisdiction in the world.”
“I am in the process of meeting with the local attorney to address this alleged complaint against my client,” Mr. Santos’ lawyer, Joe Murray, said on Monday.
Mr. Santos’s inauguration as representative of New York’s Third Congressional District on Tuesday was to take place amid a cloud of examination.
Last week, The New York Times reported a possible violation of Mr Santos’ ban on using campaign funds in campaign spending, including $40,000 in flight and lease payments to a reported address where Mr Santos was staying. for personal expenses.
The Times also exposed that Mr. Santos lied about his college degree and misled voters into working for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. He also admitted he owed thousands of dollars in unpaid rent and retracted his claim of multiple ownership.
The next step for Brazilian prosecutors is to file a petition demanding that Mr Santos respond to the charges against him when the courts reopen at the weekend. A judge will then share the so-called letter of rogatory request with the federal Department of Justice in Brazil, which will then share it with the US Department of Justice. Neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Brazilian authorities can compel Mr Santos to respond at this point. However, Mr Santos must be formally briefed in order for the case to continue.
A conviction for a crime is not in itself an action to prevent a congressman from being impeached. The most recent impeachment of a Congressman for breaking the law was the removal of James A. Traficant Jr. from the House in 2002 after he was convicted on racketeering and corruption charges.
If Mr. Santos does not defend in the Brazil trial, he will be tried in absentia. If found guilty, Mr Santos could face up to five years in prison and a fine.
Manuela Andreoni and Michael Gold contributed to the reporting.