The Man and the Myth: A Look Into the Many Lies of George Santos

George Santos has become infamous for “embellishing his résumé” and falsifying his background during his successful run for Congress last year. Since then, the lies have only grown, pushing Santos and his tribulations with the truth further into the national spotlight.

Congressman George Santos, pictured here, has come under fire in recent months for fabricating much of his story, including his background, work history, and education.

U.S. House Office of Photography, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Congressman George Santos, pictured here, has come under fire in recent months for fabricating much of his story, including his background, work history, and education.

On Election Night this past November, Democrats overcame the odds, pushing back a red wave in President Biden’s first midterm election. New York, however, faced a completely different reality.

In one of the nation’s most progressive states, the promised wave did not relent. Republicans vastly overperformed in the race for governor, a result which had a massive impact on contests down the ballot. The party swept the board of competitive house seats, including all four districts on Long Island. One of those districts, New York’s 3rd, was unknowingly responsible for electing a pathological liar. That man, of course, is George Santos.

Santos stunned all the pundits, becoming the first Republican to represent his district — spanning many of Long Island’s wealthy North Shore communities and portions of Queens — in decades. What came as even more of a shock, however, were the New York Times reports on Santos that surfaced only a month after the election, calling into question his background, work history, and personal life. Since then, the situation has devolved into chaos, with new revelations about Santos’s past seeming to emerge almost every day.

This drama has put Santos in the limelight, with his story publicized for Americans to see on full display. A majority of his voters — even including 71% of Republicans — have demanded that he resign, according to recent poll numbers. His own colleagues, including fellow New York Republicans, have demanded that Santos step aside or face potential expulsion from Congress. 

While Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy initially avoided the discussion, he has since vowed to support the House Ethics Committee’s investigation of the embattled Congressman. This comes on top of pending investigations by federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s office, along with the Nassau County District Attorney, who vowed to prosecute Santos if any illegalities were found to have taken place within the county.

If these inquiries can decisively prove that Santos broke the law or acted illegally, his political career will be in deep jeopardy, while simultaneously digging himself an even deeper hole than he has already been forced into.

A Questionable Background

It is confirmed that George Santos was born on July 22, 1988, and is currently 34 years old. Beyond this, nothing significant regarding Santos’s upbringing, family, and background has been publicly verified.

According to his campaign website, Santos grew up in a basement apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens, where he spent the early years of his life, born to immigrant parents. His mother, Fatima Devolder, was born in Brazil to parents who Santos claimed to be Holocaust refugees that escaped Jewish persecution in Europe during World War II. However, census records and DNA samplings have since indicated that Santos’s grandmother was born in Brazil, and has no clear linkage to Jewish ancestry.

Santos was quick to play down this revelation, claiming that he wasn’t a practicing Jew and merely referred to himself as such. He told local tabloid City & State that “I always joke, I’m Catholic, but I’m also Jew-ish — as in ‘ish,” a statement that enraged many of Santos’s already angered Jewish constituents.

Santos further asserted his mother’s tragic experiences, potentially in a ploy to gain sympathy from voters. He incessantly claimed that she worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, surviving the attacks and dying from a 9/11-related cancer a couple of years later. Yet, immigration records show that Devolder wasn’t even in the United States at the time, legally residing in Brazil between 1999 and 2003. 

The claim regarding Devolder’s death also seems plagued with falsehoods. Santos once claimed in a tweet that “9/11 claimed [his] mother’s life,” hinting at the related cancer battle he discussed during the campaign. In a later tweet, written on December 23rd, 2021, Santos seemed to contradict his previous statement, honoring the five-year anniversary of her passing. However, this date, which would have been December 23rd, 2016, came more than 15 years after 9/11, raising more questions than answers about his mother’s story.

A Fabricated Education

One of Santos’s most substantial controversies has surrounded his education, with many falsehoods being discovered about his academic accomplishments and lack thereof.

Santos claims to have attended the Horace Mann School, a prestigious prep school in New York City. Santos, however, said that he failed to receive his high school diploma at the school, iterating that he was forced to leave during his senior year due to his family’s financial struggles caused by the 2008 recession. 

While Santos continues to tout his attendance, administrators at Horace Mann say they have no record proving his claim. It is only known that Santos received a high-school equivalency diploma at some point, yet no one seems to know when or where he received it.

Even before that revelation came to light, Santos found himself in further trouble due to lies regarding his college education. He claimed to have attended Baruch University on a volleyball scholarship, where he led the team to victories over Harvard and Yale. In addition, Santos claimed to have earned a 3.89 GPA, ranking him among the top 1% of his class. Of course, no proof of his scholarship or attendance exists, with the Congressman eventually owning up to this in an interview with the New York Post. Santos also touted an MBA he received from New York University, but no evidence has backed up this claim thus far.

The volleyball scandal propelled Santos’s lies, at least in the eyes of many pundits and late-night comedians, from being dismissible to laughable. For many, it has made Santos a mockable character in his own right. Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s Real Time, did a whole segment on Santos back in January, amusingly asking “Why volleyball?” Other comedians, including Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel, now have recurring Santos impersonators on their respective shows, repeatedly ridiculing the Congressman.

Work History

Building off his claims of receiving an MBA at NYU, Santos also lied about his workplace history, claiming he held jobs at some of the most sought-after financial institutions in the world.

When Santos first ran for Congress in 2020, he filed a disclosure form showing the salary he made from a job at LinkBridge Investors, a business-development firm. His salary made many suspicious, as Santos claimed that he once brought in over $1 million in just six months of working for the company.

Following his failed 2020 bid, Santos began working for Harbor City Capital, a Florida-based investment firm. While there, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shut down the company after it was exposed as a Ponzi Scheme for stealing millions from investors.

By no means were these the most substantial of his lies about his work history, however. Santos erroneously claimed that he worked at financial magnates Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, yet both companies suggest they have no record of Santos ever working for them. 

As with many of his lies, Santos eventually admitted that he fabricated his story, but the troubles of his work history don’t stop there. Following his time at Harbor City Capital, Santos went on to create his own company, Devolder, dubbed for his mother’s last name and an alias he has frequently used. From the company, he claimed to have made between $3.5 million and $11 million before it was ultimately dissolved last year.

Yet, Devolder also appears to be made up, with Santos reporting extremely high earnings for a company that only existed for about a year. The company had no public website or method to accept payment, increasing suspicion about its legitimacy.

Financial Concerns

Along with Santos’s work-related lies, he has also faced trouble with his financial dealings. Many of Santos’s payments over the years have been suspicious, with people questioning the accuracy of his financial records.

The largest scandal on this front was damning, accusing Santos of loaning his campaign $700,000, a sum almost unheard of for congressional candidates. The gargantuan value has raised many questions, with no one knowing exactly where the money came from. Santos claims that $500,000 of those loans came from his own personal funds, but later reports rebuffed this original assumption.

Beyond his own contributions, Santos has also come under pressure for further campaign donations, many of which have been proven to be falsified. His campaign received a high amount of donations coming from groups not registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), with some being completely made up. Further, some of Santos’s alleged donations came from people who weren’t aware of their donations being processed, or by people who don’t even exist. 

Investigators looking into Santos’s finances have found some alarming trends in his campaign reports. Crucially, they discovered one of Santos’s deceptive methods, spending $199 or $199.99 at hotels, restaurants, and other places of leisure, in order to clear the $200 minimum that congressional campaigns are required to track in financial reports.

Further reports have suggested fraudulent behavior Santos undertook while he was living in Brazil. While residing there in 2008, he was charged with stealing the checkbook of a man his mother was caring for and cashing $700 in fraudulent checks.

Santos also faced controversy for performing drag while in Brazil, under the stage name Kitara Ravache. While unrelated to his financial dealings, Santos has publicly opposed drag performances during his campaign and in Congress, leaving further marks of deceit on his record.

Ethical Concerns

While some of Santos’s ethical concerns have already been mentioned, there are other examples of his dishonorable conduct that have emerged throughout this saga.

The most publicized of these controversies came as a result of Santos’s pet charity, Friends of Pets United. From the company, Santos claimed to have saved nearly 2,500 animals over a five-year span from sickness and homelessness. Later research found no social media accounts, IRS records, or evidence of registry in New York, New Jersey, or any other neighboring state, suggesting the company was completely made up.

Eventually, researchers discovered that Santos used his business to dupe people into a sense of security for their pets when none truly existed. He allegedly stole money from a disabled veteran that asked the charity to raise money on GoFundMe for his dog’s life-saving surgery, an effort that was successful. However, when the time came for Santos to donate the proceeds, he claimed that he didn’t have the money to give to the disabled veteran, and his dog died a year later.

Santos’s story with dogs and puppies doesn’t end there, however. In 2017, Santos was charged with theft in Pennsylvania, after being accused of ripping off an Amish dog breeder. The lawsuit claimed that Santos wrote more than $15,000 worth of fraudulent checks to buy puppies from the breeder, but was later dismissed after Santos claimed that someone had stolen his checkbook.

Only days after his fraudulent purchases, Santos held an adoption event at a Staten Island pet store through Friends of Pets United, according to the store’s social media account and people present at the event.

Moving past his charity, Santos also made claims that four his own employees were murdered in the 2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando. No evidence has substantiated Santos’s claims, with none of the 49 victims appearing to have worked at any of Santos’s companies. He has repeatedly defended the second amendment and attacked a potential assault weapons ban, prompting many voters to believe that Santos’s comments were egregious and wholly immoral.

Where does George Santos go from here?

While his background, reputation, and character have been repeatedly tarnished, George Santos remains a member of Congress, albeit one without committee assignments or much respect from his colleagues. 

As of May 11th, 2023, after months of investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York indicted Santos on criminal charges for his financial and ethical troubles. Santos was indicted on 13 counts for crimes regarding campaign fundraising schemes, money laundering, unemployment fraud, and false statements he made to Congress. Santos pleaded not guilty to each of these counts, and said that he will not resign from his seat while the investigations and trial play out.

The indictment is a stunning development in Santos’s case, and the first legal blowback faced by the Congressman so far. If found guilty on any of these charges, Santos could face prison sentencing, with the maximum sentencing ranging from 1-20 years for each crime Santos was accused of.

Amidst the charges and heavy opposition from constituents and fellow lawmakers, Santos recently announced his plans to run for reelection in 2024. His victory, even one in the primary, is far from likely, with Republican challengers already jockeying to take Santos down before the general election even occurs. One challenger has already announced his bid, with others expected to follow as the primary approaches next year.

Even if Santos miraculously survives the primary, a general election victory might be unattainable. Santos’s district voted for Joe Biden by eight points in 2020 and will be tough to defend with Biden likely on the ballot again next year. Normally, down-ballot contests tend to correlate more with top-of-the-ticket results in general election years, making it much more difficult for a Republican — regardless of whether or not Santos is the nominee — to win the district in that environment.

There is also the possibility that Santos is forced from office prior to the election, which would prompt a special election in his seat. With the district’s blue-leaning tilt, it is very possible that such a contest could cost Republicans a crucial number in the House of Representatives, stifling Kevin McCarthy’s already tenuous majority even further.

No matter Santos’s fate, his story will continue to unfold. Whether future revelations help or hurt Santos is yet to be known, but the American people seem to have already formulated their opinion regardless. Santos, without even intending to do so, has unleashed a political hurricane, exposing the culture of lying and covering up that has pervaded Washington for decades. Santos isn’t a pioneer but is so far the only one whose story has captivated a national audience, with people across the country listening closely as the next lie comes into view.

Santos has certainly faced a flurry of opposition, but he seems unfazed so far. The question on everyone’s mind, while still unanswered, remains the same: will George Santos’s lies eventually prompt his political downfall? The answer seems to be a consensus one: not if, but when.

This drama has put Santos in the limelight, with his story publicized for Americans to see on full display. A majority of his voters — even including 71% of Republicans — have demanded that he resign, according to recent poll numbers. Even his own colleagues, including fellow New York Republicans, have demanded that Santos step aside or face potential expulsion from Congress.