US Representative George Santos earned a reputation as a modern-day Pinocchio after he was caught fabricating his background on everything from working for Goldman Sachs to producing Broadway musicals. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark to be a man of Jewish descent. Now, a new lie has just been exposed: the US Department of Justice has accused Santos of collecting COVID benefits while working a six-figure job.
Shortly after the Republican was elected to Congress in November 2022, the New York Times revealed large holes in Santos’ resume as well as missing information on his financial documents and “criminal charges for check fraud”. His false statements only continued to come to light from there, culminating in an indictment on Wednesday in which prosecutors charged him with 13 counts, including money laundering and unemployment fraud.
Santos applied for unemployment benefits in March 2020 with the New York State Department of Labor, according to court documents, continuing to certify his eligibility from June of this year to April 2021. investment firm (the New York Times identified the company as Harbor City Capital, which the SEC later accused of running “a classic Ponzi scheme”).
It’s all a bit ironic: Santos banked thousands of dollars committing the very fraud he was looking to stop.
He was one of 35 co-sponsors of the Taxpayer and Unemployment Fraud Victim Protection Act, which was designed to protect local governments from anyone who mistakenly filed for unemployment at the start of the pandemic. The law allows states to keep 25% of fraudulent benefit overpayments they recover and extends the statute of limitations for filing suits to 10 years.
Enforcing tougher federal aid requirements has been a big part of the Republican Party’s platform in recent years. When the pandemic first hit, the unemployment rate in the United States was the highest since the Great Depression. Many Americans have filed for unemployment and received stimulus packages under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, which allocated nearly $250 billion in unemployment benefits to the massive number of unemployed people.
While the aid has allowed households to build unprecedented wealth and helped boost economic mobility, Republicans have widely criticized the relief, arguing that it helped fuel inflation and people benefited from it. Early research by the US Government Accountability Office found that more than $60 billion went to fraudulent unemployment insurance payments. In an attempt to crack down on those benefits, they pushed the Unemployment Fraud Act, with Santos broadly supporting such moves.
Now the pot calls the black kettle. Santos pleaded not guilty to 13 federal charges, taking to Twitter to tweet “WITCH HUNT!”