UNITED STATES NEWS

Prosecutors in Rep. George Santos’ case say they have given his defense over 80K pages of material

Jun 29, 2023, 9:28 PM | Updated: Jun 30, 2023, 1:04 pm

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — Prosecutors said Friday that they have turned over more than 80,000 pages of materials to U.S. Rep. fraud and money laundering case against him.

The documents weren’t publicly released, as is common during this stage of a case. The barely five-minute hearing at a Long Island courthouse focused on the case schedule, with the next court date set for Sept. 7.

Santos didn’t speak in court, nor to journalists waiting outside. The New York Republican, known for fabricating key parts his life story, is free awaiting trial.

Santos pleaded not guilty last month to charges that he duped donors, stole from his campaign, collected fraudulent unemployment benefits and lied to Congress about being a millionaire.

Prosecutors have charged Santos with 13 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Taken together, the allegations suggest Santos relied on “repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” according to Breon Peace, the U.S. attorney for Long Island.

Santos has condemned the federal investigation as a “witch hunt,” vowing not only to remain in Congress but to seek reelection. Republican leaders have urged Santos not to run again but have deferred efforts to expel the freshman representative that could narrow their slim majority.

About a dozen protesters and a Santos supporter awaited him outside the courthouse Friday.

The critics blasted Republican congressional leaders for letting Santos stay in the House.

“We’re now six months with this charlatan as our representative, with no meaningful representation in Congress,” said one of the demonstrators, Jody Kass Finkle, who lives in Santos’ district.

The group also included a Navy veteran who says Santos stole more than $3,000 that was raised to pay for surgery for the veteran’s dog, which subsequently died. The FBI has been looking into veteran Richard Osthoff’s claims; Santos has said he’s an animal lover who wouldn’t let a dog die.

While Osthoff shouted, “You killed my dog!” at Santos as he left court, supporter Marie Tooker gave the politician a small American flag. She lives in a neighboring congressional district but said she would “absolutely” vote for him if she could.

“What he’s being accused of is a grain of sand” compared to others’ misdeeds, she said, making general allegations of various forms of theft.

Federal prosecutors say Santos misused funds that he raised for his campaign on personal expenses, including designer clothes and credit cards.

He is also accused of lying about his finances on congressional disclosure forms and obtaining unemployment benefits while making $120,000 as regional director of an investment firm, which was later shut down over Security and Exchange Commission allegations that it was a Ponzi scheme. Santos wasn’t named in the SEC complaint and has said he was shocked by the allegations.

As part of his bond agreement, Santos must notify the court if he plans to travel outside of New York or Washington, D.C. He said he received permission to do so this week before flying to El Paso, Texas, where he called for increased border security and brushed off questions about the federal investigation.

“I might have my fair share of embroilments that the media seems to like,” he said in El Paso. “That’s fair, but I ran to get stuff done.”

___

Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed from New York.

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Prosecutors in Rep. George Santos’ case say they have given his defense over 80K pages of material