It’s not every day the Department of Justice brings charges against a sitting member of Congress. But that’s exactly what happened on May 10, when the DOJ charged Rep. George Santos with “seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.”
“This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations,” stated United States Attorney Peace. Among the other charges, Peace says Santos “unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.”
BREAKING: Rep. George Santos was arrested on federal criminal charges including wire fraud, money laundering and lying to Congress, the U.S. attorney's office says. The New York Republican became infamous for fabricating key parts of his life story. https://t.co/W9cYBcSti2
— The Associated Press (@AP) May 10, 2023
All told, the DOJ says Santos collected $24,000 in unemployment benefits he wasn’t eligible for. He allegedly did so by repeatedly attesting that he was unemployed while actually employed by a Florida-based investment firm and earning a $120,000 salary. If true, this would be a textbook case of welfare fraud—something Republicans typically aren’t big fans of. (Ironically, in March, Santos co-sponsored a bill addressing unemployment fraud).
Of course, everyone deserves their day in court, and Santos must be legally presumed innocent until proven guilty. But the alleged behavior does certainly seem in character for the congressman.
After all, Santos has been caught in fantastical lies about his life, ranging from his false claims about where he went to school to where he worked to having family members who died in the Holocaust. So, is it really so hard to believe that he would lie about his employment status?
If Santos did do this, it’s not just a crime but a slap in the face to hardworking taxpayers. Yet he wouldn’t exactly be an outlier. Because the government recklessly expanded unemployment benefits with almost no safeguards during the pandemic, hundreds of billions of dollars were lost to fraudsters. As I previously reported: “According to the American Enterprise Institute, the government may have lost more than $200 billion to unemployment fraud under this expanded system. That would make ‘unemployment fraud’ the fourth-largest stimulus expenditure. To put this in context, the government seems to have lost five times as much taxpayer money to fraud than it spent on vaccine development.”
Frankly, Congress would struggle to design a system more ripe for criminal abuse. And when our government is so careless with our money, it’s inevitable that everyone from rappers to inmates to future members of Congress will take advantage of hardworking taxpayers like you and me.