Scandal-hit congressman George Santos arrested on federal criminal charges

George Santos wears a white button up shirt, a dark sweater vest and grey pinstripe jacket

Gay Republican congressman George Santos, who has almost become synonymous with the word “scandal”, has been arrested on federal criminal charges in New York.

Santos surrendered to the authorities on Wednesday (10 May) and is currently in custody at a federal courthouse on Long Island, reported The New York Times.

The specific nature of indictment is filed under a seal so is unclear, CNN reported, with the charge reportedly coming as a surprise to the Republican politician, who was informed of the development on Tuesday (9 May). 

Santos is expected to be arraigned later this afternoon.

The arrest comes after Santos was the subject of state and federal investigations for possible financial crimes, as well as being investigated by the House ethics committee over allegations of false statements during his campaign last year. He has also been subject to an investigation in Brazil. 

Santos, who was sworn into the House of Representatives on 7 January, has previously denied committing any crimes, telling the New York Times: “I am not a criminal here, not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world.”

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At the start of this year, the Republican politician’s ever-growing list of controversies expanded further after images emerged that purported to showed him as a drag queen named Kitara in Brazil, in 2008.

Santos, who represents New York’s 3rd congressional district, initially denied the “outrageous claims” but later admitted to dressing up as a woman for “fun at a festival”.

The congressman has been criticised for the almost the entirety of his time in office and was accused of lying about his past even before he was sworn in, leading to calls for him to quit or be replaced. 

Allegations of fabrications around Santos’ work and educational background were first made in a damning report by The New York Times in December. 

Following the report, Santos admitted he didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning or work directly for either Goldman Sachs or Citigroup, despite previous claims to have done so.

He also said he “never claimed to be Jewish” but instead said he was “Jew-ish”. 

Republican congressman George Santos
George Santos responded to photos which appear to show him dressed as a drag queen, saying that he was young and having “fun at a festival”. (Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday RM/Getty Images)

Later, an investigation by The Daily Beast revealed Santos had accepted an “almost certainly illegal” donation of $500 for his campaign from human trafficker Rocco Oppedisano, who is not a United States citizen. In the US, campaign contributions can’t be made by foreign nationals.

Santos’ campaign spending came under question in the same investigation, with more than half a dozen “food and beverage” expenses to eatery Il Bacco, owned by Oppedisano’s brother and niece, coming in at exactly $199.99 – one cent short of the requirement to retain transaction receipts.

He was even accused by a Navy veteran of pocketing thousands of dollars raised in a GoFundMe for his dying dog, and of masterminding a credit card fraud scheme by Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha, a man convicted of a credit card skimming and deported to Brazil.

Marjorie Taylor Greene laughs while speaking with George Santos in the House of Representatives
George Santos with fellow Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene. (Getty)

Credit card skimming is when devices are illegally placed in places such as cash machines to record the card-holder’s PIN.

Following the torrent of scandal, New York Republicans have attempted to distance themselves from Santos. According to The Advocate, some have said they would refuse to work with him.

So far, Santos has ignored calls for him to resign, but in January he said he would temporarily step down from two congressional committees

In February, gay Democrat Robert Garcia led the charge to expel Santos from the US political system. 

That same month Santos was accused of dating a high school student when he was 26 and catfishing a man who didn’t want to be in a relationship with him.

While he remains a member of Congress, should Santos be convicted of a crime that could result in prison time, he would not be able to participate in votes on the floor of the house or in committees.