- by cnn
- 29 Sep 2023
Rep. George Santos has been charged in a federal criminal probe that - from a legal standpoint - won't affect his status as a member of Congress but will ensnare him in a potentially yearslong court process that could result in a sentence of several years in prison.
The Long Island congressman, who has an extraordinary trail of falsehoods that emerged soon after he was elected and helped cement the narrow GOP House majority, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges that range from wire fraud to theft of public money to false statements on his House disclosure reports.
Santos is accused of funneling contributions meant to support his campaigns into his personal bank accounts, from where it was spent on luxury clothes and paying off debt. Prosecutors also allege he fraudulently applied for and received Covid-related unemployment benefits while receiving a six-figure salary working for an investment firm.
If convicted of the top counts in the indictment, Santos faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to the Justice Department, though it's more likely he'd receive a much lesser sentence.
Here's what to know about the significance of the charges and what happens next:
The indictment lays out three main buckets of alleged criminal activity by Santos.
The first scheme described by prosecutors are alleged false representations made by Santos to political donors that led them to make contributions that were not ultimately used to support his campaign. That alleged scheme has prompted five counts of wire fraud and three counts of unlawful monetary transactions.
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