The ex-treasurer for the indicted Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., has flipped on her former boss, pleading guilty Thursday to a fraud conspiracy charge and implicating Santos in a scheme to embellish his campaign finance reports with a fake loan and fake donors.
Speaking to the judge Thursday, Marks briefly outlined a scam she said was intended to hoodwink Republican Party officials into throwing their support behind Santos, who at the time had lost an earlier race for Congress and was struggling to get financial support for a second run.
To impress party leaders, she said, Santos submitted bogus campaign finance reports falsely saying he had loaned his campaign $500,000 even though in reality he didn’t have that kind of money and the loan didn’t exist. The fake loan made Santos look way richer than he really was, and also helped him hit fundraising thresholds needed to qualify for backing from a national GOP committee.
Reading from a prepared statement, Marks also said she had provided the Federal Elections Commission with a fake list of people who had supposedly given large donations to the campaign. Prosecutors said the list included the names of multiple members of Santos’ and Marks’ families.
“The donors, who are real people, didn’t give me permission to use their names,” Marks said in court,
Her plea agreement comes with a recommendation that she serve 3 1/2 years to 4 years in prison.
An attorney for Santos, Joseph Murray, attended the court hearing and said afterward that he expected Marks was cooperating with the government. A congressional spokesperson for Santos declined to comment.
Prosecutors didn’t charge Santos in the criminal complaint against Marks, but they described him as a “co-conspirator.”
The Justice Department has been targeting Santos ever since he won his race for Congress last November.
By February, the FBI was actively attempting to infiltrate Santos’s office, according to a former staffer who became an informant.
“When I was working for the congressman as a legislative aide, I was approached by the FBI about infiltrating the congressman,” the former Santos staffer, Derek Myers, told NewsNation’s Chris Cuomo in May.
“The FBI was actively looking for someone close to the congressman so they could infiltrate him and try to get information from within his inner circle.”
Myers’s information seemed to take Cuomo by surprised. The news host asked Myers if he considered the FBI’s actions against Santos to be appropriate.
“I think they were looking for a human asset—someone close to the congressman who could feed them information, somebody within his inner circle,” Myers responded. “It’s not inappropriate for them to do that. They do that quite often.”
In August, federal prosecutors further charged Santos’s a former campaign fundraiser, Samuel Miele, with identity theft.
Santos has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which include wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress.
Adopted from the Associated Press.