The FBI is looking into allegations that Representative George Santos was involved in a GoFundMe scam to help pay for euthanasia costs for the service dog of an injured U.S. Navy veteran.
Former serviceman Richard Osthoff told that two agents contacted him on Wednesday on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
According to a report by Patch, Osthoff provided agents with text conversations from 2016 in which he communicated with Santos, whom he accuses of using his misfortune to seek money for a life-saving operation for a pit bull mix named Sapphire and then disappearing with the money.
In 2016, George Santos raised $3,000 for a veteran’s dog’s surgery. Then, he allegedly disappeared with the money.
Now, the FBI is reportedly investigating Santos’ role in the alleged scam. https://t.co/iVljaNuEsl
— The Recount (@therecount) February 1, 2023
“I’m glad to get the ball rolling with the big-wigs,” Osthoff said in an interview Wednesday. “I was worried that what happened to me was too long ago to be prosecuted.”
A series of controversies, including the alleged fundraising scheme, have plagued the freshman Republican since he won a swing seat on Long Island in December. Nonetheless, he has refused to resign from office.
Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman, both Democrats from New York, have called for a Federal Election Commission inquiry into Santos’ campaign financing, and they have welcomed the fact that the investigation in the Eastern District is moving at a serious clip.
Only the U.S. attorneys can move at the speed that is required, Torres said in an interview.
No one in Congress is a bigger threat than Santos. As much as we’d like to deny it, he clearly did something illegal. George Santos is an inside threat to Congress, and we have to stop him,” Torres stated.
A former federal prosecutor and current member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, Goldman, echoed Torres’ statements in his own interview.
The Justice Department needs to decide soon whether or not to indict Santos “given that a serial liar like Santos is still wandering the hallways of the Capitol.”
On Tuesday, Santos informed his colleagues that he was resigning from his Congressional committee assignments in an effort to not be a “distraction” for House Republicans. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with Trump the day before the announcement, but he didn’t say why.
The remark that McCarthy made last week was his strongest one yet on Santos. He told reporters on Capitol Hill that Santos will be expelled from Congress if the House Ethics Committee determines that he has violated any laws.
Although prosecutors are looking into more serious suspected financial crimes, senior trial lawyer and Eastern District veteran Joshua Schiller said the veteran’s meeting with Santos might offer prosecutors an easy method to slam the Republican congressman with criminal charges.
“I think there is an urgency here because Santos is currently in a position to make laws,” Schiller said. “I can think of examples where the government used a lesser indictment to seize assets and try to cause the defendant to plea to a deal before bringing a second or third indictment on more serious charges, and I bet that is the case here.”
Joseph Murray, Santos’ attorney, declined to comment. Santos has previously claimed that any claims of illegal activity on his resume were exaggerations.
In spite of repeated attempts to reach them, neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York provided an immediate response to our requests for comment.
In 2016, Osthoff was living in a tent on the side of the road in New Jersey when a veterinary technician put him in touch with a group that helps homeless people with pets. Veteran Anthony Osthoff claims that Friends of Pets United director Anthony Devolder made good on his commitment to assist in the removal of a tumor from the canine’s stomach.
Screenshots of the social media posts advertise the GoFundMe page with the slogan “When a veteran reaches out to beg for aid, how can you say no?” This is a variant of the full name Santos used before entering politics; it was presumably Devolder.
Desolder’s text conversations with Sapphire show that once the account hit its $3,000 objective, he made a series of reasons for why he couldn’t help Sapphire obtain treatment and subsequently became difficult to reach.
Osthoff claims that Santos intentionally exploited his situation as a homeless injured veteran with a sick service dog to solicit donations, then disappeared with the money, leaving him unable to pay for Sapphire’s necessary surgery.
According to Osthoff, the ordeal was so harrowing that it made him consider ending his own life. In 2017, the tumor proved fatal for Sapphire.
The New York Times revealed in December that Santos had made up a large portion of his campaign biography, including the fact that Friends of Pets United was a recognized charity.
According to Schiller, the many types of charges that could arise from the GoFundMe claims include wire and postal fraud, as well as bank fraud. According to Schiller, Santos might have broken the law by claiming charitable deductions for an organization that wasn’t properly registered.
Following the Times articles and other reporting that raised more questions about Santos’ history and how he funded a successful bid that changed his Long Island seat from blue to red in November, CBS News reported that federal authorities in New York were “looking into” Santos.
According to a story in last week’s Washington Post, the Department of Justice requested that the FEC hold off on taking enforcement action against Santos while it worked on its own probe.
Over $700,000 A personal loan from Santos to his campaign that was reported to the FEC as a loan suggests a possible illegal straw donor operation.
Additionally, the district attorneys for Queens and Nassau County in New York are conducting their own investigations into Santos.
According to Osthoff, an investigation into the GoFundMe campaign was launched a month ago by the Public Integrity Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office, which is responsible for conducting fraud and criminal investigations into elected officials.
On December 22nd, a spokesman for Attorney General Tish James claimed that her office was “looking into” multiple issues involving Santos, without providing details. When asked about the progress of its GoFundMe investigation, the Attorney General’s office did not provide a response.
When asked for comment, a GoFundMe representative declined but did say the organization had been cooperative with authorities.