(CNN) Rep. Jorge Santos is innocent 13 Federal ChargesAllegations of fraud related to Covid-19 unemployment benefits, including misappropriation of campaign funds and lying about his personal finances in House disclosure statements.
Santos was released on $500,000 bond, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York. He was ordered to surrender his passport and required permission to travel outside Washington, DC, New York City and Long Island.
The New York Republican appeared in federal court on Long Island on Wednesday. He is charged with wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making false statements to the House of Representatives.
In a combative, impromptu press conference after his arrest, Santos said he was “compliant with this whole process” but blasted the accusations as a “witch hunt” and said he would “fight my battle.”
The allegations inject new uncertainty into the political future of Santos, a freshman congressman whose astonishing lies and fabrications have stunned even hard-line politicians and led top Democrats and some New York Republicans to call for his resignation earlier this year.
The congressman said Wednesday that he will not resign from his post and plans to try again. re-election Next year.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said Wednesday that he would wait before calling on Santos to resign.
“It always worries me,” McCarthy told CNN after being told of the money laundering and wire fraud allegations.
“He will serve his time in the investigation and we will find out what the outcome will be,” McCarthy added.
Prosecutors said Santos, 34, solicited campaign funds under false pretenses and used them for personal expenses such as designer clothing.
The indictment alleges that Santos engaged in a “fraudulent political contribution solicitation scheme.”
“Taken together, the charges in the indictment accuse Santos of repeatedly relying on dishonesty and deceit to enrich himself in the halls of Congress,” U.S. Attorney Brion Pease said in a statement. “He used political contributions to line his pockets, illegally applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives.”
Santos, who was elected last year to represent the district that includes parts of Long Island and Queens, has been under investigation in several jurisdictions and by the House Ethics Committee. The Congressman has admitted to making some false claims about his education and financial status, but continues to deny the more serious allegations. He pleaded not guilty.
He was taken into custody in Melville, a law enforcement source told CNN. From there he was taken to court in Central Islip.
Santos fraudulently applied for unemployment benefits related to Covid, the indictment alleges
Santos was charged with fraudulently applying for unemployment benefits, alleging that he falsely claimed to be unemployed on an application for a pandemic-related unemployment insurance program.
Although he said on his application that he had been unemployed since March 2020, he worked at an investment firm and reportedly received regular deposits as part of his $120,000 annual salary. July and August 2020.
He worked for the company between February 2020 and April 2021, the indictment alleges. But prosecutors say Santos received $24,744 in benefits because of false promises he allegedly made to the unemployment program.
Santos lied in House disclosure statements, prosecutors say
According to the indictment, Santos made false statements on multiple financial disclosure statements to the House of Representatives during his two congressional runs.
Congressional candidates are required to file sworn financial disclosures before election, which provide a full account of the candidate’s finances, assets and income.
As part of his first congressional run in 2020, Santos filed two disclosures in the House containing false statements. Santos said in the statements that he earned $55,000 in salary, commissions and bonuses from a company, referred to only as “Company #2” in the indictment.
Santos said in a 2020 disclosure that the only compensation he received above $5,000 from a single source was an “unspecified commission bonus from Company #2.”
However, prosecutors say Santos only received $27,555 from Company #2. Santos failed to disclose the full salary he earned from an unidentified investment firm.
The conduct continued when Santos filed his 2022 declaration in that election — which he won — according to the indictment.
Santos wrote in the form that he “earned $750,000 in salary from Devolter Organization LLC” in 2021 and 2022, adding that “his undisclosed income includes dividends from Devolter Organization LLC of $1,000,001 and $5,000” in compensation of no more than $5,000 from a source in which he was an owner.
Attorneys said on the then-candidate’s 2022 form that he had “a checking account with deposits between $100,001 and $250,000” and a “savings account with deposits between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000.”
“Contrary to these statements, in fact and as Santos then fully knew and believed, he did not receive a salary or dividends from Devolder Organization LLC; he did not maintain checking or savings accounts with deposits. Approximately $28,107 in unemployment insurance benefits (from the investment firm where Santos worked) during the same reporting period (New York); received income, all of which he failed to report as required, the charge sheet said.
Santos should resign
As Santos faced multiple investigations earlier this year, several top Democrats and some Republicans called for him to step down from his seat, and those calls resumed Tuesday after CNN reported he had been indicted.
New York Republican Mike Lawler, who has been one of the most outspoken Santos critics within the party, told CNN on Tuesday: “I reiterate that he needs to resign.”
Another New York Republican representative. Nicole Malliotakis told CNN, “I’m not surprised. I understand where this is going.”
Mallotakis on Tuesday insisted he would look into the allegations, but when asked if Santos should be removed from Congress, he said: “I would like to see someone new run because I can tell you that we will take that seat, so soon Santos is out. Can be brought in soon.”
Other Republicans said Santos’ district should be the one to decide his fate in Congress.
Tom Emmer, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said “his constituents will overcome any problem.”
This story has been updated with additional updates.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona, Annie Grayer, Jeremy Diamond and Allie Malloy contributed to this report.