Rep. George Santos of New York pleaded not guilty to a 13-count federal indictment unsealed by the Justice Department at a Long Island courthouse on Wednesday. The 34-year-old Santos has been charged with 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, according to the Justice Department.
Santos, who surrendered into custody Wednesday morning, pleaded not guilty at an 11-minute hearing and was released on $500,000 bond. Santos must submit to pretrial services, have random monitoring at his home and surrender his passport, and any travel outside New York state and Washington, D.C., must be approved by the court. He’s due in court again June 30. Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Santos said he was confident that he would be able to clear his name, adding that he doesn’t plan to resign from Congress and that he still plans to run for re-election next year. Santos later tweeted that he was facing a “witch hunt.”
Santos was elected to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District last November and has spent the months since dealing with questions about his education and professional experience, as well as his finances and campaign spending. The Justice Department alleges that Santos used campaign contributions for personal expenses, falsely collected more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits by claiming to be unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic and lied to Congress on financial disclosure forms. The charges against Santos were filed by federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York; if convicted, Santos faces up to 20 years in prison for the most serious charges. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement: “Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself. He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives.”
Santos has only admitted to “embellishing” his resume, but has otherwise denied any other wrongdoing.
Calls for his resignation were reiterated after Santos’ arrest, with many lawmakers demanding Santos to step down from his House seat in light of the criminal charges filed against him.
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