Inside the incredible world of the fantasist congressman: George Santos was kicked out of Congress for using campaign money on OnlyFans… but as TOM LEONARD reveals, that episode barely scratches the surface of a man whose ‘total existence is a lie’
When a national politician is caught spending his campaign contributions on X-rated online content, it would normally be a scandal that elicits outraged demands for his instant expulsion.
In America, however, the claim — in a devastating House Committee on Ethics report released in November — that US Congressman George Santos had used campaign money to subscribe to the explicit content of model Leila Lewis on the adult website OnlyFans, was greeted with a weary shrug.
After all, it was par for the course for an allegedly compulsive fantasist and conman with a taste for the high life who a year ago admitted lying about his background and achievements — and yet until today was still brazenly sitting in Congress on an annual $174,000 (£137,000) salary.
Until today’s historic vote in which 105 fellow Republicans joined Democrats and voted to boot him out, attempts to shame Santos into resigning his post for embellishing his CV and allegedly breaking federal law had proved utterly fruitless. He becomes only the sixth Congressman to be expelled from the House.
It has been one of the most outrageous — not to say entertaining — political scandals to hit Washington for years. The Republican US Representative in New York stands accused of inventing almost everything about himself to get elected, as well as engaging in a jaw-dropping list of criminal activities.
George Santos (leaving U.S Capitol) becomes only the sixth Congressman to be expelled from the House
He stormed off the House floor minutes before the vote sealing his fate concluded
Santos is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him
Beyond the generally accepted facts that he is the New York-born, 35-year-old son of Brazilian immigrants, everything else about Santos has been up for debate.
Did he go to one of New York’s smartest private academies — or a humble public school? Is he gay or straight, Jewish or Catholic? Did family members really escape both the Holocaust and the September 11 terror attacks?
And did he actually set up a compassionate ‘animal charity’ or just swindle a disabled veteran for whom he claimed to be fund-raising?
As Democrat congressman and former prosecutor Daniel Goldman has said of Santos: ‘This is someone who is a premeditated serial liar, whose total existence is a lie and a fraud.’
Yet for reasons primarily of cynical political expediency — namely to hold on to their party’s slim majority in the chamber — Santos’s Republican colleagues have previously dragged their feet over expelling him from the House and have defeated two previous attempts to vote him out.
The new House report also detailed how the inventive Millennial spent tens of thousands of dollars of political donations on Botox treatments, designer clothes — including $6,000 (£4,700) in a single splurge at Ferragamo and $4,128 (£3,250) at Hermes — and spending sprees in the Hamptons and casino mecca Atlantic City.
Although a majority of House Republicans today voted against expelling him, the shocking report evidently proved too much for many of their colleagues.
Santos has rejected the report, denying any financial impropriety, but confirmed that, to spare his family, he wouldn’t run for re-election next year.
Rep. George Santos (R-NY) is surrounded by journalists as he leaves the U.S. Capitol after his fellow members of Congress voted to expel him from the House of Representatives
In the now-public ethics report, Santos was found to have used campaign money and donations to fund a lavish lifestyle, engaged in fraud, filed false election reports and ‘willfully’ violated ethics
Even so, he is due to go on trial in September next year on 23 federal charges covering fraud, credit card theft, aggravated identity theft, false statements and stealing public funds. The contents of the new investigation may result in further charges.
While two of his ex-campaign staff have already admitted related charges, Santos, who has publicly confessed to being a ‘terrible liar’, is denying the charges and describes them as a ‘witch hunt’.
It’s a remarkable saga for a man who claimed during his congressional election campaign last year to be the ‘full embodiment of the American Dream’.
That bold boast started to fall apart spectacularly within weeks of winning his seat in November last year. He was initially hailed as the first openly gay non-incumbent Republican elected to Congress, but the media soon began reporting that his impressive CV was a masterpiece of creative writing.
After growing up in a basement in blue collar Jackson Heights, Queens, the first-generation American said he was educated at one of New York’s most exclusive private schools, Horace Mann, before going on to two prestigious city universities where he picked up a degree and an MBA.
He got into the first college, he said, on a volleyball scholarship, and proved to be such a ‘star’ player for his team that he ‘sacrificed’ his knees and had to get them replaced.
While two of his ex-campaign staff have already admitted related charges, Santos, who has publicly confessed to being a ‘terrible liar’, is denying the charges and describes them as a ‘witch hunt’
After graduating, he went on to work in finance for two of Wall Street’s most illustrious firms — Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, investing his earnings in a family-owned real estate empire that encompassed 13 properties.
But just after Christmas last year — before he even entered Congress in January — Santos admitted that many of his CV claims were made-up, though he preferred the word ’embellished’.
He hadn’t graduated from college, he’d never worked for those blue-chip companies and far from being a wealthy landlord, he actually owed thousands of dollars in unpaid rent.
As for his employment history, well, former colleagues could confirm he had at least once toiled for $12 (£9.45) an hour with them at a call center in Queens.
Worse followed. Despite campaigning as both gay and Jewish in liberal and diverse New York, it appeared he wasn’t either. Santos said he lived with his husband and four dogs in Long Island. No such union had been recorded and it instead emerged that while he had been married for seven years until 2019, it had been to a woman.
‘I dated women in the past. I married a woman. It’s personal stuff,’ he told the New York Post last December. ‘I’m OK with my sexuality. People change.’
But people can’t so easily change their race. In his campaign literature, he’d described himself as a ‘proud American Jew’ and claimed his mother’s parents were Hungarian Jews who had twice fled anti-Semitic persecution, the second time escaping the Holocaust to Brazil.
In fact, investigators confirmed, his grandparents came from Brazil and weren’t Jewish. ‘I never claimed to be Jewish,’ he protested in response. ‘I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish’.’ With some nerve, he accused detractors of ‘nitpicking’.
But why had he lied so much? Having made a failed bid for Congress in 2020 — just two years after he first dipped his toe into politics — Santos explained weakly that he fell victim to ‘the pressures of what I thought needed to be done [to get elected]’.
He took his seat in Congress at the beginning of this year, and one of his first acts there was to give a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
The embarrassing revelations about the real George Santos only continued.
He had claimed his finance executive mother was in her office at the World Trade Center and died on September 11, 2001, when a hijacked plane destroyed the building. He then denied having made such a claim and said she died a few years later — from cancer caused by toxic debris related to 9/11.
The congressman-elect said in a 2021 tweet that, ‘9/11 claimed my mother’s life,’ however Fatima Devolder died in 2016 of cancer and it’s unclear if it was 9/11-related. It’s also unclear if she was an executive or a housekeeper
However, when the disaster occurred she was actually in Brazil, where she lived and worked as a nurse until her death in 2016.
A Rio de Janeiro drag queen named Eula Rochard claimed to be friends with Santos while he was in Brazil in 2005. She claimed he was calling himself ‘Anthony Devolder’ (Santos’s two middle names) and also performing as a drag queen.
Another source said Santos regularly appeared in drag pageants under the name ‘Kitara Ravache’ and aspired to be crowned ‘Miss Gay Rio de Janeiro’. A furious Santos at first rejected these allegations as ‘categorically false’ but, as online commenters warmed to the idea of a drag queen Congressman, he made a U-turn. ‘I had fun at a festival,’ he countered in January. ‘Sue me for having a life.’
He’s also been accused of being responsible for an entire fake acting biography on Wikipedia for his alias ‘Anthony Devolder’, which claims he starred in various TV shows including Disney’s children’s sitcom Hannah Montana and a movie called The Invasion starring Uma Thurman. The actress has, alas, never even made such a film.
Other claims by Santos for which media investigators have found no evidence include: helping produce a 2011 Spiderman musical on Broadway, two Chinese men once kidnapping his five-year-old niece from a New York playground, being the target of an ‘assassination attempt’ after being elected and of a 2021 mugging in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue in which a robber took his briefcase and, curiously, his shoes.
It’s been easier to locate instances where Santos has been the accused. In May, he settled an outstanding 2008 Brazilian fraud case, admitting to using a chequebook stolen from his mother’s employer.
He is also reportedly being investigated by the FBI over claims that, after setting up an animal-rescue charity called ‘Friends of Pets United’ and promising in 2016 to raise money to pay for life-saving surgery for a disabled veteran’s service dog, he went off with $3,000 (£2,360) in online donations.
The dog didn’t get the surgery and had to be put down. Santos counters that his charity rescued more than 2,500 animals between 2013 and 2018, but other pet owners have also accused him of never passing on thousands of dollars he raised online on their behalf.
No doubt a lucrative book deal and Netflix mini-series await to reward Congressman Santos now that Washington DC is finally done with him.
In the meantime, perhaps one can have a sneaking admiration for the man, who asked why he thought he’d won his seat, had the audacity to point to Jewish voters and say: ‘We’re fed up with being lied to.’
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