The names of two people who worked together to pay bond for embattled Congressman George Santos have been released, minutes ahead of a judge’s order.
The congressman’s father, Gercino Dos Santos, and aunt, Elma Santos Praven, were among the three who together came up with $500,00 to bond out the New York Republican on 10 May; the congressman is accused of committing more than a dozen crimes, including fraud. The name of his third co-signer is due to be released imminently.
He is accused of countless acts of deception thanks to telling a wide range of lies about his background, as well as more serious allegations like using campaign cash for personal expenses as well as receiving unemployment benefits while a sitting member of Congress.
It was a shocking amount of dishonesty made all the more brazen by the congressman’s refusal to step down amid bipartisan calls for him to do so; a vast majority of voters in his district want him gone, according to polls. But despite being stripped of committee memberships by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the New York Republican remained a House member in (relatively) good standing even after his arrest last month.
Now, it’s unclear whether the congressman even makes it to his second election. He has vowed to do so, clinging to power while he and his close aide, Vish Burra, often jeer at critics who say his presence sullies the House of Representatives, including those in his party. But the wide-ranging investigation headed up by the Justice Department could mean that he is forced to spend his next election day in a prison cell.
The charges, 13 in total, carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison for the more serious counts. Mr Santos has plead not guilty.
Some of those same news organisations digging into Mr Santos’s background in the wake of the discoveries about his extensive fabrications were behind a motion filed last month seeking the release of the names of those who paid the congressman’s bond, citing public interest that “cannot be overstated”. Mr Santos opposed that motion, with his attorneys stating that he would rather submit to pretrial detention than submit the three anonymous benefactors to public scrutiny.
“A United States Congressman stands accused of perpetuating financial fraud in connection with his election to the House of Representatives,” read their motion.
“Rep. Santos is charged with defrauding members of the public while campaigning for office,” it continued. “The alleged criminal conduct fundamentally challenges the integrity of our democratic institutions. And the decision to keep the identities of the sureties hidden from public view only exacerbates those challenges.”
A judge agreed, though the release of the names was delayed to give Mr Santos time to appeal.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said that Mr Santos will remain in the chamber until the House Ethics Committee reaches its own decision.