George Santos’ Lies Have Made His Biography a Total Mess (2023)

Who is George Santos? We’re all still trying to piece that together. The embattled congressman from New York’s 3rd district has reportedly lied about everything from attending college and working on Wall Street to being a volleyball star and producing the failed Spider-Man Broadway musical.

A federal grand jury indicted Santos on 13 criminal charges this month, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements to the House of Representatives. On May 10, Santos pleaded not guilty to the charges and said he will not resign and still plans to seek reelection next year.

These are some of the wildest alleged falsehoods Santos has made—and deeds he has done—over the years.

He said his family fled the Holocaust

During his campaign, Santos claimed his maternal grandparents were Ukrainian Jewish refugees who survived the Holocaust by fleeing to Europe and Brazil. Several genealogists have said there is no proof of these claims, and Forward found evidence that Santos’ grandparents were born in Brazil before the Nazis came to power.

Santos also generated criticism when he later told the New York Post that he was Catholic but that “because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background, I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’” The Republican Jewish Coalition condemned him after these remarks, saying he “deceived us and misrepresented his heritage.”

He said his mother died in the September 11 attacks

Santos claimed his mother, Fatima Devolder, was working in the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks. Initially, he said on Twitter that the attacks “claimed my mother’s life,” though the biography on his campaign website stated she survived the attacks and died of cancer a few years later.

But according to The New York Times, immigration records indicate Devolder, who died in 2016, was living in Brazil during the attacks. In a 2003 filing, she claimed she had not been in the United States since 1999. She also described herself as a housekeeper and home aide, contradicting Santos’ claim she was an executive at a major financial institution.

He said he was an actor on Hannah Montana

In April 2011, a Wikipedia user named Anthonydevolder—an alias Santos has repeatedly used himself —created a profile page with biographical details that include Santos’ actual birthday and some biological facts. It also described him as an actor who had appeared on Disney Channel shows Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zach & Cody.

The Wikipedia profile, which has since been removed, also claimed Devolder appeared in the science-fiction film The Invasion (2007), though it incorrectly called Uma Thurman the star of that movie, rather than Nicole Kidman. Santos has not commented on whether he wrote the profile.

He said he lost employees at the Pulse nightclub shooting

During a November 2022 interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC, Santos claimed that four employees who worked for him were killed during the mass shooting at the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando where 49 people were killed on June 12, 2016.

The New York Times, however, found that none of the 49 victims of that shooting appeared to work at any of the firms identified in Santos’ biography. Santos later claimed the four were in the process of being hired but had not been yet.

He said he ran a dog charity

Several of Santos’ alleged lies involve puppies. He claimed to have run a foundation called Friends of Pets United, which he said saved 2,500 dogs between 2013 and 2018. But no IRS records or registration information about the charity could be found. It was only known to hold one fundraiser in 2017, and the rescue group it was held for never received the funds.

Politico reported Santos was charged with theft in Pennsylvania in 2017 for allegedly writing more than $15,000 in bad checks to dog breeders for puppies, with which he later hosted an adoption event. Santos has also been accused of stealing money from a disabled veteran who asked him to help fund a life-saving surgery for his dog, who died less than a year later.

He stole a checkbook from a man in Brazil

In 2008, when Santos was 19 years old, he stole the checkbook of a man his mother was caring for in Brazil and used it to make fraudulent purchases, according to Brazilian court records. Santos reportedly confessed to the crime two years later but later denied any wrongdoing, saying “I am not a criminal here—not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world.”

Brazilian law enforcement authorities seem to disagree. Prosecutors said the case was previously suspended because they could not find Santos but that they plan to revive the fraud charges against him.

His yearly income changed very drastically

Well before criminal charges were filed against him this past week, Santos’ personal finances were being called into question, considering that he went from making $55,000 a year in 2020 to earning between $3.5 million and $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022, according to financial disclosure statements.

The North Shore Leader, a small weekly newspaper in Long Island (part of Santos’ district), had raised questions about Santos’ net worth increase in September 2022, three months before The New York Times published its exposé on him. That story claimed that in 2020—two years before allegedly making millions—his financial disclosures stated he had no assets over $5,000.

He had several suspicious names listed as donors

A Mother Jones report from January raised further questions about Santos campaign financing. For example, some of the people listed as his donors don’t seem to exist at all. The publication reported that Victoria and Jonathan Regor reportedly contributed $2,800 each, but nobody by those names live at the address provided or indeed anywhere else in the country.

Federal campaign finance law prohibits the donation of money under a false name or the name of someone else, according to Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center.

He might have embezzled money to buy luxury clothes

The indictment against Santos this month included several serious allegations, including that he received $24,000 in unemployment during the pandemic despite having a job that provided him a $120,000 annual salary.

Among the more unusual charges, however, was that Santos embezzled campaign contributions to buy himself expensive designer clothing. That particular allegation was enough for New York magazine to declare Santos a “fashion criminal.”

His fundraiser posed as Kevin McCarthy’s staffer

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said Santos has “a long way to go to earn trust” but has resisted calls to sanction him. This is despite the fact that Sam Miele, a fundraiser from Santos’ campaign, allegedly impersonated McCarthy’s Chief of Staff during phone calls and emails seeking money from wealthy Republican donors.

A complaint has been filed with the Federal Elections Commission over the alleged fraudulent activity. As for McCarthy, his counsel Elliot Berke told The New York Post, “When this issue came to our attention last year, I raised it with the Santos campaign and felt it was resolved to our satisfaction.”

George Santos’ Lies Have Made His Biography a Total Mess (1)

Colin McEvoy

Senior News Editor,

Colin McEvoy joined the staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.

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