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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

George Santos admits to lying about college and work history

George Santos (R-N.Y.) addresses a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, 2022. The congressman-elect told The New York Post that he had not graduated from college or worked at two major Wall Street companies, as he had previously claimed.

By Michael Gold and Grace Ashford

Ending a weeklong silence, Rep.-elect George Santos admitted earlier this week to a sizable list of falsehoods about his professional background, educational history and property ownership. But he said he was determined to take the oath of office on Jan. 3 and join the House majority.

Santos, R-N.Y., who was elected in November to represent parts of northern Long Island and northeast Queens, confirmed some of the key findings of a New York Times investigation into his background, but sought to minimize the misrepresentations.

“My sins here are embellishing my résumé,” Santos told The New York Post in one of several interviews he gave on Monday.

Santos admitted to lying about graduating from college and making misleading claims that he worked for Citigroup or Goldman Sachs. He once said he had a family-owned real estate portfolio of 13 properties; on Monday, he admitted he was not a landlord.

Santos, the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent, also acknowledged owing thousands in unpaid rent and a yearslong marriage he had never disclosed.

“I dated women in the past. I married a woman. It’s personal stuff,” he said to The Post, adding that he was “OK with my sexuality. People change.”

The admissions by Santos added a new wrinkle to one of the more astonishing examples of an incoming congressman falsifying key biographical elements of his background — with Santos maintaining the falsehoods through two consecutive bids for Congress, the first of which he lost.

Santos acknowledged that a string of financial difficulties had left him owing thousands to landlords and creditors. But he failed to fully explain in the interviews how his fortunes reversed so significantly that, by 2022, he was able to lend $700,000 to his congressional campaign.

Santos also firmly denied committing a crime anywhere in the world, even though the Times had uncovered Brazilian court records showing that Santos had been charged with fraud as a young man after he was caught writing checks with a stolen checkbook.

In both interviews Monday, Santos also denounced reporting by both CNN and The Forward, a Jewish publication, that he may have misled voters about his account of his Jewish ancestry, including that his maternal grandparents were born in Europe and emigrated to Brazil during the Holocaust.

“I never claimed to be Jewish,” Santos told The Post. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”

Santos, who has repeatedly said he was religiously Catholic but has also identified as a nonobservant Jew, told the Post his grandmother had recounted how she converted from Judaism to Catholicism.

Santos, through representatives, has declined multiple requests to speak with the Times.

Over the course of his campaigns, Santos claimed to have graduated from Baruch College in 2010 before working at Citigroup and, eventually, Goldman Sachs. A biography on the National Republican Congressional Committee website said he had attended both Baruch and New York University and received degrees in finance and economics.

But the colleges and companies could not locate records to verify his claims when contacted by the Times.

In Monday’s interview, Santos admitted to the Post that he had not graduated from Baruch College or any college.

“I didn’t graduate from any institution of higher learning. I’m embarrassed and sorry for having embellished my resume,” he said, later adding: “We do stupid things in life.”

He also admitted that he never worked directly for Goldman Sachs or Citigroup, blaming a “poor choice of words” for creating the impression that he had.

Past statements of Santos are relatively clear however: An archived version of Santos’ former campaign website preserved by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine says he “began working at Citigroup as an associate and quickly advanced to become an associate asset manager in the real asset division of the firm.”

Instead, he told the Post on Monday, he dealt with both firms through his work at another company, LinkBridge Investors, which connects investors with potential clients. LinkBridge, he said, had “limited partnerships” with the two Wall Street firms.

The Times was able to confirm Santos’ employment at LinkBridge. But in a version of his campaign biography posted as recently as April, Santos suggested that he had started his career on Wall Street at Citigroup and that he was at Goldman Sachs briefly before his time at LinkBridge.

A spokesperson for Citigroup declined to comment. Representatives for Goldman Sachs and LinkBridge did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

Santos has not fully accounted for his employment during the years that he had claimed, that he was advancing on Wall Street. In a separate interview with WABC radio, he confirmed reporting by the Times that he had worked at a call center in Queens in late 2011 and early 2012.

Yet even as Santos, whose victory helped Republicans secure a narrow majority in the next House of Representatives, admitted to some fabrication, his actions will likely not prevent him from being seated in Congress.

Democrats — including the outgoing House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the next House Democratic minority leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York — have suggested Santos is unfit to serve in Congress. Top House Republican leaders, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, have largely remained silent.

The House can only prevent candidates from taking office if they violate the Constitution’s age, citizenship and state residency requirements. Once he has been seated, however, Santos could face ethics investigations, legal experts have said.

Of greater potential concern are questions about Santos’ financial disclosures, in which he reported earning millions of dollars from his company, the Devolder Organization.

Santos disclosed little about the operations of his company, and the Times could find no public-facing assets or other property tied to the firm. Santos also did not list any clients on his disclosures, despite the requirement that candidates list any compensation over $5,000 from a single source.

Intentionally omitting or misrepresenting information on a congressional financial disclosure is considered a federal crime.

In a video interview with City & State, Santos asserted that his consulting practice at the Devolder Organization built upon the work he had done at his former firm, LinkBridge.

“I had the relationships and I started making a lot of money. And I fundamentally started building wealth, and I decided I’d invest in my race for Congress,” Santos said, adding: “There’s nothing wrong with that — no criminal conduct. No anything of the sort.”

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