WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 01: Rep. George Santos (R-NY) walks back to his office after debate on the House floor on a resolution to expel him from Congress, at the U.S. Capitol November 1, 2023 in Washington, DC. On Wednesday evening, Congress is scheduled vote on an expulsion resolution against Rep. Santos and censure resolutions against Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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A former campaign fundraiser for embattled Rep. George Santos of New York pleaded guilty Tuesday in Long Island federal court to wire fraud related to impersonating a top aide to ex-House Speaker Kevin MCarthy while soliciting donations for Santos.
The guilty plea by Samuel Miele, who also admitted to charging credit cards of political contributors for personal expenses, came a month after Santos’ former campaign treasurer Nancy Marks pleaded guilty in the same court to multiple campaign finance felonies related to her work for the freshman Republican.
Santos, 35, himself is charged in the same court in a 23-count superseding indictment with fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements.
When they added new charges against him last month, prosecutors accused Santos of stealing people’s identities and making charges on his donor’s credit cards without their permission, and of falsely inflating his campaign’s reported receipts “with non-existent loans and contributions that were either fabricated or stolen.”
Santos, who has pleaded not guilty has refused demands by fellow House Republicans from New York and others to resign.
The congressman, who represents parts of Queens and Nassau County, Long Island, fell under scrutiny in late 2022 soon after winning his House seat, when a series of news articles exposed how he had lied about his family background, education, and professional resume.
The criminal cases against Santos, Marks, and Miele all stem from investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York, which opened those probes as a result of the media reports about the freshman congressman.
Miele, a 27-year-old resident of New York City, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 30. He faces up to 20 years in prison. but is likely to receive a sentence much lower than that due to federal sentencing guidelines.
As part of his guilty plea Tuesday, Miele agreed to pay more than $109,000 in restitution, forfeit more than $69,000, and make a payment of $470,000 to a political contributor.
“The defendant used fraud and deceit to steal more than one hundred thousand dollars from his victims, funneling this money into the campaign committees of candidates for the House, and into his own pockets,” U.S Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
“Defrauding potential political contributors undermines our democracy, and we will vigorously prosecute such conduct,” Peace said.
Miele, had raised money for Santos during the Republican’s first campaign for Congress in 2020, and then again in 2022.
He was accused of pretending to be the aide for the California Republican McCarthy while soliciting donations for Santos from more than a dozen would-be contributors. Miele was paid a commission of 15% on each successful donation.
The aide was not identified in charging documents. But CNBC reported early this year that Miele made calls and sent emails to potential donors while claiming to be McCarthy’s chief of staff Dan Meyer during the past two congressional election cycles.
When Santos was first indicted in May, Peace said, “This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations.”
“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” Peace said.