Rep. George Santos' has come under increased scrutiny after the Republican admitted to embellishing his résumé and fabricating parts of his biography.
The 34-year-old Republican, who represents a sliver of northeast Queens and parts of Long Island’s North Shore in Washington, is now under investigation by local and federal authorities. He has resisted calls to resign even by members of his own party.
His mother’s death
As of at least October, Santos’ campaign website stated that his mother, Fatima Devolder, was “in her office in the south tower” of the World Trade Center on the day of the 9/11 attacks. The website said “she survived the horrific events of that day, but unfortunately passed away a few years later.” However, an online obituary shows Santos’ mother passed away more than 15 years after 9/11, in December 2016.
It was revealed in mid-January that Devolder did not appear to even be in the U.S. at the time of the 9/11 attacks, but was in Brazil awaiting approval from immigration authorities to legally enter the country. The findings were revealed by a Manhattan accountant who filed a request through the Freedom of Information Act requesting Devolder's visa application. Her application requesting to enter the country was dated 2003. Her paperwork, according to a screenshot shared by the accountant, showed she was living in Brazil for six years.
In mid-January, the news site Patch first reported that Santos allegedly ripped off a New Jersey veteran out of $3,000 needed to pay for the veteran's sick dog in 2016. Santos, who allegedly went by the alias Anthony Devolder, had raised the money through a now-defunct GoFundMe page he had set up on behalf of the veteran, Richard Osthoff.
The day after the allegations were revealed, Santos tweeted, "The reports that I would let a dog die is shocking & insane."
On his campaign websites, Santos noted that his “grandparents fled Jewish persecution in Ukraine, settled in Belgium, and again fled persecution during WWII.” His biography on his campaign website has since been changed.
Santos described himself as “a proud American Jew” in documents to pro-Israel groups. But six weeks after he was elected to office, he admitted to misleading voters about his cultural and religious background. Santos told The New York Post during a Dec. 26 interview that he “never claimed to be Jewish,” only “Jew-ish.” He said his grandmother told him she was Jewish but had converted to Catholicism.
The Forward looked into ancestral records, and found evidence that Santos’ maternal grandparents were born in Brazil before the Nazis rose to power in Europe.
Santos told the Post during the Dec. 26 interview that he never graduated from college, retracting previous statements claiming that he received a degree in economics and finance from CUNY’s Baruch College in 2010.
When he ran for Congress in 2019, Santos claimed on his campaign website that he graduated from the prestigious Horace Mann School in the Bronx. Ed Adler, a spokesman for the school, said officials there “checked all the records and all the aliases. He (Santos) did not attend Horace Mann.”
Shortly after admitting he hadn't graduated from Baruch College, it emerged Santos had invented other details about his supposed time at the school. He claimed during an October 2020 radio interview that he had a volleyball scholarship to attend Baruch.
"You know, it's funny, I actually went to school on a volleyball scholarship," he said in the interview on WABC.
“[W]e went to play against Harvard, Yale, and we slayed them," he later added. "We were champions across the entire Northeast Corridor. Every school that came up against us, they were shaking at the time. And it’s funny, I was the smallest guy and I’m 6-foot-2."
He said he "sacrificed" his knees to play volleyball and had to have knee replacement surgery.
His work experience
On the campaign trail, Santos billed himself as a “seasoned Wall Street financier and investor” and claimed he worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. But during the Post interview, the soon-to-be-lawmaker clarified that he “never worked directly” with either of the financial institutions.
Around the same time, Santos claimed that he was working his way through the financial sector, a Times investigation showed that he was a customer service agent at a Dish Network call center in Queens.
His real estate portfolio
Santos tweeted in February 2021 that he owned 13 rental properties where tenants had not paid rent for a year. “We worked hard to acquire these assets. Now it almost feels like we are being punished,” he wrote. But in the Post interview, he admitted he does not own any real estate and lives at his sister Tiffany’s home in Huntington.
Santos’ tweet railing against his fictitious tenants came four years after he was evicted for at least the third time in Queens, according to housing records surfaced by The New York Times.
In court eviction records, he claimed to have been mugged in 2016 on his way to pay $2,250 in back rent on his Queens apartment. The NYPD says it has no record of the attack.
During a March 2020 interview, Santos claimed he had a brain tumor. He said while his condition resulted in a weakened immune system, he was still capable of fighting a COVID-19 infection. He claimed the pandemic — which officially began the month he was interviewed — had been exaggerated.
“I am just shocked that the proportion that this has been blown up because I am the perfect candidate to be, you know, R.I.P., and it just didn’t happen,” Santos said at the time.
Santos did not respond to claims verifying he had a tumor.
Pulse nightclub shooting
During an interview on "The Brian Lehrer Show" shortly after he won the November general election, Santos claimed that four of his employees had died during the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The incident — in which a single gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens — is considered one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
“My company, at the time, we lost four employees that work, that were at Pulse nightclub,” Santos told Lehrer. “This is a deja vu moment for me, not something that is really good even going over because it just brings back such tragic memories.”
However, The New York Times investigated this claim in its first investigative story into Santos last month. The Times story stated that “a review of news coverage and obituaries found that none of the 49 victims appear to have worked at the various firms named in his biography.”
This is an ongoing story that will be updated.
Jessica Gould contributed reporting to this story.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Adler's last name.