The Shady Side Of George Santos

In November 2022, New Yorkers elected an untested Republican to Congress. On paper, George Santos, who represents the state's third congressional district, appeared to be a solid choice for the party. He had no previous political experience, but had plenty of success in business, having worked on Wall Street, ran his family's organization, and acted as an NYC landlord. He also held a firm stance when it came to major hot-button political issues: he supported the police, advocated for reduced dependence on other countries, and was all for lowering taxes. His proximity to Trump's circle sealed the deal for many voters — George Santos was exactly the kind of fresh, new energy they were looking to bring to the party, and they were happy to have the young leader fighting for them in D.C.

Unfortunately, Santos isn't exactly who he painted himself to be. In the weeks after he was elected, but before he was sworn into office, The North Shore Leader and The New York Times published articles questioning and debunking dozens of claims Santos had previously made. It turns out, he's far from the golden boy Republicans believed him to be. Below, we're diving into the shady side of George Santos, setting the record straight on some of the most outrageous lies he's told, and taking a closer look at some of the more questionable aspects of his life. Buckle up, because this is about to be one wild ride.

Jewish or 'Jew-ish'?

One of the first major fibs George Santos was called out on was his ever-changing heritage. An older version of his campaign website outright claimed he had Jewish lineage, reading, "His mother Fatima Devolder was born in Brazil to Belgian immigrants that fled the devastation of World War II Europe." His actions on the campaign trail also seemed to indicate that he was in touch with that aspect of his identity, according to People, he attended Hanukah parties and went to meetings of the Republican Jewish Coalition. However, as The New York Times expose first revealed, he actually isn't Jewish at all.

Forward, an independent Jewish newspaper, confirmed The New York Times' findings. The outlet scoured genealogy websites and immigration records and found nothing to corroborate Santos' story. Instead, they discovered that both of Santos' maternal grandparents, as well as his mother Rosa Caruso Horta Devolder, had been born in Brazil. Additionally, they found that there was no mention of Jewish customs or major religious holidays on her social media accounts, but there were plenty of references to Catholic religious traditions.

In an interview with The New York Post, Santos attempted to backtrack on his earlier claims saying, "I never claimed to be Jewish. I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was 'Jew-ish.'" Despite the obvious discrepancy between what he told the Post and what was initially printed on his website, there is still no viable evidence that anyone on either side of Santos' family has Jewish heritage or has been a practicing Jew.

A 9/11 survivor

The Jewish heritage question wasn't the only drama George Santos dragged his unexpecting mother into. In a tweet he wrote on July 12, 2021, Santos claimed that his mother, Rosa Caruso Horta Devolder, died as a result of the Twin Towers terrorist attacks, writing, "9/11 claimed my mother's life..." Over the years, the Congressman told the story of his mother's life over and over, claiming (as The Seattle Times reports) she worked her way up to becoming "the first female executive at a major financial institution," a role that feasibly could have placed in her an office in the Twin Towers. The only thing about the story that ever changed was the ending — occasionally he would claim she lost her life that day, other times he'd say she made it out of the towers alive but eventually died of complications (typically cancer brought on by the fumes) later on.

Unfortunately for Santos, victims' advocacy organizations have told outlets like Rolling Stone that there are no employment records that would place Devolder near the towers on that fateful day. Additionally, she never entered a victims' compensation claim or joined any of the numerous lawsuits surrounding the attacks. A researcher for The Seattle Times also found immigration documents in which Devolder herself said she had been out of the United States and living in Brazil since June 1999. According to that outlet, she never even worked in finance and wouldn't have even been in a position to be in the FiDi at all that day. Instead, she was employed as a housecleaner and home aid in the city's outer boroughs.

Striking out on education

There have to be some basic things about George Santos' biography, like where he went to school, that are true, right? Wrong. On his website and in interviews, Santos has claimed that he attended Horace Mann (an elite and expensive private school in Upper Manhattan), Baruch College, and NYU. All three institutions have said they have no record of Santos being enrolled in their programs.

First up, in an old version of the representative's About Me section of his website, he wrote "He began Horace Mann preparatory school in the Bronx, however, did not graduate from Horace Mann due to financial difficulties for his family." A representative for the school told CNN, "We've searched the records and there is no evidence that George Santos (or any alias) attended Horace Mann." Strike one.

Then there was Baruch College. In a resume Santos gave the Nassau County Republican Committee, obtained by The New York Times, he wrote that he graduated from Baruch in 2010 with a 3.98 GPA. He'd later walk this claim back entirely telling The New York Post, "I didn't graduate from any institution of higher learning. I'm embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume." Strike two.

Finally, and most offensively for some, Santos once bragged on the "Police Off the Cuff" podcast (as reported by Business Insider) that he graduated from NYU with his M.B.A. and absolutely no student debt. In the interview, he implied that folks who held student debt or who were asking for debt relief were just lazy. Easy to say when you've never been in that position yourself. Strike three.

The Wolf of Wall Street

If George Santos' resume is to be believed, he held a number of significant positions at major financial firms after "graduating" with his bachelor's and master's degrees. According to the document, Santos first worked at Citigroup before moving to Met Global Inc. then Goldman Sachs and finally Linkbridge Investors. In the media, he always painted himself as a high-achieving and boundary-pushing employee, noting on his website that he was "one of the youngest vice presidents in the industry" and telling Nassau Community College's 90.3 WHPC podcast he berated his then-employer for their position on renewable energy while sitting on a panel at private equity conference run by Anthony Scaramucci.

In reality, Santos wasn't a high-achieving, boundary-pushing employee. In fact, he wasn't even employed at many of the firms he listed. In December 2022, the politician admitted to The New York Post that he had "never worked directly" for Citigroup or Goldman Sachs, but had only tangentially been involved with them through his work at LinkBridge (where, The New York Times reports, one of his primary duties was arranging conferences, not managing investments). As for that public takedown of Goldman Sachs at the conference? It never happened, according to Scararmucci who spoke to CNN.

So how was Santos making all his money pre-LinkBridge? That remains up for debate (and we'll come back to it later), but Patch was able to confirm he worked at a Dish Network location in Queens as a bilingual customer service representative for at least a couple of years around 2011 and 2012.

Landlord Santos

While he was busy "working" for these major financial institutions, George Santos claims he was also adding to his wealth via a side hustle — renting and maintaining family-owned properties as a New York City landlord. In a tweet from February 8, 2021, the Congressman claimed his family owned 13 properties around the city, and expressed frustration at not being able to collect rent on many of them thanks to covid-related policies. Interestingly, Business Insider was unable to find any mention of NYC properties in the disclosure forms for Santos' campaign.

Even more interestingly, Santos seems to have maintained a pattern of being a bad tenant himself. The outlet reports that he was evicted twice — once in 2015 after owing $2,250 in unpaid rent and once in 2017 after owing $10,000 in unpaid rent. Another former landlord told The New York Post that Santos and his sister had "done a lot of damage" to their Queens rental when they abruptly moved out in 2022.

So what about the possibility of Santos owning property outside New York City? He once claimed that his family owned a house in Nantucket, the popular vacation spot of many political powerhouses and moneyed East Coasters. That's a little harder to prove as many of the homes on the island are owned through shell companies, but given his history of tall tales, and the fact that no properties are registered to either a Santos or a Devolder, we're inclined to say that this particular claim is false as well.

Charitable or a charity case?

According to George Santos, he wasn't just raking in the cash as a Wall Street tycoon and prolific landlord, he was also giving it away left and right. At multiple points in his campaign, the politician made a point of highlighting his charitable work. The aforementioned old About Me section of his website lists four different ways in which he either currently was or previously had been involved in local charitable operations and national non-profits. But there was one endeavor he always spoke about more than all the rest — Friends of Pets United.

On his website, Santos said that the 501(c) had rescued 2,400 dogs, 280 cats, and had TNR'd (trapped, neutered, and released) an additional 3000 cats. However, The New York Times found no record with the IRS of a registered charity under that name. As if that wasn't enough, it seems that trivial fact didn't stop Santos from telling folks in his community the non-profit existed and then proceeding to embezzle from it.

In early 2023, a veteran came forward and told Patch that Santos had promised to help save his dying service dog, Sapphire. The men started a GoFundMe to pay for a necessary surgery for the animal, but then Santos, the veteran claimed, abruptly shuttered the campaign as soon as it hit $3,000 and disappeared with the money. As a result, Sapphire was unable to get the life-saving medical treatment and died in 2016. For his part, Santos told The Hill the man's claims were "shocking" and "insane."

A fraud abroad

The GoFundMe incident isn't the only time George Santos has been accused of taking money that isn't his. While conducting research for their expose, The New York Times discovered that the politician was also facing criminal charges in Brazil related to check fraud.

Here's the story. After graduating high school, Santos spent some time living in Brazil with his mother. In 2008, when he was 19, he stole a checkbook from a man his mother (who was then working as a nurse) was caring for. Using the checks he bought a number of items for himself, including a pair of sneakers. Two years after his fraudulent shopping spree, Santos confessed to the crime, and official charges were filed.

And here's where things get tricky. According to Brazilian courts, the case never went to trial because they lost track of Santos. Whether that's because he fled the country and moved back to New York or because he simply slipped through the cracks of their justice system is unclear, but either way he's never been convicted of a crime, merely accused. However, now that they're aware of where he is, Brazilian prosecutors told CNN they have every intention of re-opening the case and filing charges against him once again.

Of course, Santos maintains his innocence, telling The New York Post, "I am not a criminal here — not here, or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world. Absolutely not. That didn't happen."

Pauper to prince

Back to the money. The North Shore Leader, the first outlet to bring up questions about George Santos' stories, noted that he seemingly went from pauper to prince in the span of two years. According to the outlet, when he filed personal financial disclosures in 2020 they said he had no assets over $5,000. His income that year was only $50,000— a respectable number, to be sure, but not large enough to increase his fortune to $11 million by 2022. Which is exactly how much the most recent personal financial disclosures said he was worth.

Santos himself has pointed to the Devolder Organization as the primary source of his fortune. A "family-run" business, Devolder "is in the capital introduction business, including 'deal building' and 'specialty consulting' for 'high net-worth individuals,'" according to Semafor. Part of the work also seems to include re-selling luxury goods, like yachts and private planes, to wealthy clients. Suspiciously, however, the business has been opened and shuttered a number of times, Santos refuses to make public any documents related to his company, and he has never disclosed clients whose business has exceeded $5,000, which is against New York state law.

Many people think it's more likely that some of Santos' wealth, if he actually has any, came from Harbor City Capital. Santos had acted as the Florida firm's New York Regional Director for years before the business was accused of being a massive Ponzi scheme. Santos has denied any knowledge of the company's wrong-doings, but many remain suspicious given his sudden financial solvency.

Campaign cheat

There aren't just questions about George Santos' personal wealth, but about his campaign finances as well. For starters, his 2022 campaign finance form originally included a $600,000 personal loan, which implies it was money taken from his personal accounts and not money given to him by donors. However, he very recently admitted to The Daily Beast that the cash wasn't actually a personal loan ... but failed to shed any light on the true source. Which means it's possible that he has violated campaign finance laws and could wind up facing charges.

Additionally, a significant portion of the money he raised was raised through a mysterious, unregistered fund called RedStone Strategies. Because the fund, which Santos has demonstrable ties to, isn't registered, there's no record of its donors, contributions, or spending. Meaning, as The New York Times writes, there's no way to know if every cent of the money went towards campaign finances as it should have.

Finally, a glimpse at his FEC documents reveals that Santos had dozens of expenditures that came in at $199.99, just a single penny below the figure at which the FEC requires candidates to keep receipts. These charges rang up at restaurants, drugstores, and ride-sharing services, and could imply that Santos was irresponsibly spending money (aka spending it for personal reasons not at all related to his campaign) and attempting to hide it from officials. A campaign finance expert told CNN, "If in fact he did misuse campaign funds, this was a blatant effort to evade detection."

A double standard

If George Santos' campaign money turns out to have been ill-gotten and ill-spent, it wouldn't be the first time his actions have contrasted with his so-called morality. From the beginning, Santos has always been open about his identity as a gay man, he told USA Today, "​​I am openly gay, have never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade, and I can tell you and assure you, I will always be an advocate for LGBTQ folks." Meanwhile, he's been incredibly vocal about his support for Ron Desantis's "Don't Say Gay" bill, even posting a minute-long video touting the so-called benefits of the bill on his Facebook page.

Additionally, new reports from outlets like CNN and Reuters have revealed that Santos performed as a drag queen in Brazil on multiple occasions. Pictures and video footage obtained by the news sites show the Republican dressed in a red dress and fully done up, and fellow performers recalled working alongside him when he went by the name Kitara Ravache. The issue many Americans have with Santos' stint as a drag queen isn't that he's been a part of these scenes — his private life is his to do with as he chooses and his performances aren't hurting anyone— but that he's participated in these circles while attempting to limit fellow citizens' freedoms to do the same. There's just something so shady about claiming to support a group of people, and even openly participating in their culture, while also working to ensure they remain second-class citizens with fewer rights than their counterparts.

Trauma tourist

If you haven't picked up on it yet, George Santos is a bit of a trauma tourist. He loves inserting himself in devastating situations if it can get him a bit more sympathy or notoriety. Aside from claiming his mother was present for the 9/11 attacks, Santos has also claimed involvement in two other recent American tragedies.

First, in an interview with WNYC, he claimed to have lost four employees in the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting. He's never specified which company these individuals were employed at, but The New York Times expose found that none of the 49 victims appear to have worked at any of the same companies Santos claims to have worked at. Additionally, a victims' advocate told Click Orlando that, to her knowledge, no one employer lost more than two employees in the attack, which places further doubt on Santos' claim.

Next, Santos claimed in a now-deleted interview to have been one of the first people in New York City to get COVID-19. In a clip of the conversation that was preserved on Twitter, he says that after he finally tested negative on March 26, 2022, doctors were saying it was a miracle he survived, as the immunodeficiency, acute bronchitis, and brain tumor he was also suffering from made his immune system much weaker than the average persons. However, The Daily Beast reports that there seem to be some inaccuracies in Santos' story, including the fact that he was making public appearances during the time he says he was hospitalized and that he never really discussed his experience until then-President Trump tested positive in October 2020.

Racism is not OK

Finally, George Santos has been accused of flashing a white power sign during a House Speaker vote in January 2023. The sideways "OK" hand signal he casually made with his left hand may seem inconspicuous when taken at face value, but the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center both note that many white supremacist groups have taken to using it as a way to easily demonstrate their social and political views.

Of course, it's impossible to determine whether or not Santos used the signal knowingly and intentionally or whether it was a genuine accident, and we do want to assume a degree of innocence. However, that's made more difficult when we learn things like the fact that Santos was present at a December 2022 gala that was attended by known white supremacists and right-wing conspiracy theorists. At a minimum, it seems as if he should have known what the gesture meant, and should have steered clear of making it at all. Regardless of intention, this is just one more shady thing about the Congressman.