Ethics Committee expands investigation into Santos

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The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it has expanded its probe into Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), adding allegations that the congressman fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits to the list of investigative areas.

The news comes more than one month after Santos was indicted on 13 federal charges over allegations that he, among other claims, received the fraudulent benefits. He is also accused of misleading donors and misrepresenting his finances to the public and government agencies.

Santos pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Ethics Committee announced the expansion of its case in a rare statement from Chairman Michael Guest (R-Miss.) and ranking member Susan Wild (D-Pa.), which referenced last month’s indictment.

“On May 9, 2023, Representative Santos was indicted on federal charges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Most of the charges in the indictment were already in the jurisdiction of the ISC,” the pair wrote.

“In accordance with House Rule XI, clause 3(b)(9) and Committee Rule 18(e), the Committee voted to expand the jurisdiction of the ISC’s inquiry to include counts IXXI of the indictment, allegations that Representative Santos fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits,” they added.

The indictment accuses Santos of fraudulently receiving more than $24,000 in unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Santos allegedly applied for benefits in June 2020, incorrectly stating that he had been unemployed since March — when normal life came to a halt as the coronavirus spread — and received benefits through April of the following year.

In actuality, however, prosecutors say that Santos in that time had been receiving a $120,000 salary as a regional director at a Florida-based investment firm. The federal indictment came the same week that the House was set to vote on a bill — which Santos co-sponsored — that would incentivize states to recover fraudulently paid unemployment benefits.

The Ethics panel revealed in March that it established an investigative subcommittee to look into whether Santos “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office.”

The subcommittee has since issued more than 30 subpoenas and more than 40 voluntary requests for information, according to the statement from Guest and Wild. They said the subcommittee “is actively working to resolve this matter in an expeditious timeframe.”

They also noted that investigative subcommittee is in communication with the Justice Department to “mitigate potential risks” as the two entities pursue Santos.

“The Committee is aware of the risks associated with dual investigations and is in communication with the Department of Justice to mitigate the potential risks while still meeting the Committee’s obligations to safeguard the integrity of the House,” the statement reads.

Last month, the House voted to refer a resolution to expel Santos to the Ethics Committee, a move that was largely redundant because of the ongoing probe by the panel.”

News of the expanded probe came the same day that the names of the co-sponsors on Santos’s $500,000 bond were released after efforts by the congressman to keep their identities private. Santos’s father, Gercino dos Santos, and aunt, Elma Preven, backed his criminal bail, according to court documents unsealed Thursday.

Last month, the Ethics panel requested information on Santos’s co-sponsors, according to an unsealed court document. The congressman’s lawyer requested a 30-day extension to respond while also noting that he could not hand over the requested information with the committee until it was unsealed by the court.

If it were to be unsealed, however — as it was this week — he said he would share the information.

Santos has been the target of scrutiny since before he was sworn into the House amid questions about his background and finances. He faced bipartisan calls to resign, but has been adamant that he plans to remain in Congress. He is also running for reelection next year.

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