The FBI is interviewing a former Navy veteran who claims that Rep. George Santos, a Republican from New York, misappropriated funds from an online fundraising campaign aimed at paying for life-saving surgery for the veteran’s service dog.
Rich Osthoff, the veteran, told CNN he spoke to a pair of FBI agents on Wednesday about the incident on behalf of the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which is investigating Santos’ finances. Osthoff said he cooperated with the agents’ requests, including handing over his text message exchanges with Santos.
Rep. George Santos, a freshman Republican from New York, is facing a growing number of scandals and allegations of fraud, lying and the misappropriation of funds from an online fundraising campaign. Despite these accusations, Santos has refused to resign from office. New York Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman have called for a Federal Election Commission investigation into Santos’ campaign finances and are pleased that the Eastern District investigation is progressing rapidly. Torres stated that Santos poses a threat to Congress and must be protected from his illegal actions. Goldman, a former federal prosecutor, added that the Justice Department should act quickly to determine if an indictment is appropriate, given Santos’ history of lying. On Tuesday, Santos resigned from his Congressional committee assignments in an effort to avoid becoming a distraction for House Republicans. He had a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy the day before, the reason for which was not disclosed.
Recently, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy stated that if Rep. George Santos is found guilty of breaking the law by the House Ethics Committee, he will be removed from Congress. Joshua Schiller, a senior trial lawyer in the Eastern District, believes that the veteran’s encounter with Santos could provide a fast path for prosecutors to bring criminal charges against the Republican congressman, even as they investigate more serious financial crimes. Schiller added that there is urgency in this case as Santos is currently in a position to make laws. Santos’ attorney declined to comment, and Santos has previously claimed that he only exaggerated parts of his resume and denies breaking any laws. A U.S. veteran claimed that Santos, under the name Anthony Devolder, promised to help him get a tumor removed from his service dog’s stomach through a GoFundMe account, but failed to deliver on the promise and became difficult to reach. The veteran alleges that Santos used his story to extract donations and took the funds, leaving him unable to afford the surgery for his dog.