Representative George Santos (R-NY, he/him) is under scrutiny after The New York Times reported that he facilitated the sale of a $19 million yacht between two wealthy donors in September 2022. Santos, who was previously called out for lying about his resume and background, has now attracted the attention of the FBI. His fabrications include false claims of being Jewish, the son of a 9/11 victim, a college graduate, and more. Authorities question whether or not the sale was done to accumulate funds for Santos’s political campaign, part of a larger investigation into his campaign finances. Federal law requires for candidates to “disclose any compensation in excess of $5,000 from a single source,” according to Slate Magazine. However, it has not been officially declared if any laws were broken.
The luxury yacht was sold to auto dealer Raymond Tantillo (he/him) by Mayra Ruiz (she/her), a Republican donor who had previously donated $10,800 to Santos’s campaign. Santos orchestrated the exchange. According to The New York Times, Santos asked Tantillo to make donations to his campaign during the sale, but Tantillo refused. Suspicions surround a dramatic increase in Santos’s earnings; he reported a $55,000 salary in 2020 versus a $750,000 salary in 2022.
Amid the controversies of his office, Santos has remained unfazed. He has denied allegations of illegal activity, and his attorney, Joe Murray (he/him), has declined to comment to the press. AP News reports that there is “pressure from Republicans to resign and from Democrats to be expelled from office.” Santos has not resigned but instead stepped down from his House committee assignments.
Besides the FBI investigation, a House Ethics sub-committee probe against Santos was also initiated in early March. A press release from the committee stated that it is investigating if Santos “engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; [and] failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House,” among other questions.
According to a Slate Magazine article written by Shirin Ali, there are four disciplinary actions the House could impose on Representative Santos if the Ethics Committee concludes wrongdoing. The most severe option is expulsion, followed by censure, reprimand, and lastly, reproval.