NEW YORK (AP) — Two relatives helped indicted U.S. Rep. George Santos stay out of detention while he awaits trial by guaranteeing his bond, according to court records unsealed Thursday, answering two of many questions surrounding the Republican’s finances.
The documents revealed that Santos’ father, Gercino dos Santos, and an aunt, Elma Preven, were the two people who co-signed the $500,000 bond, which enabled his pretrial release as he awaits trial on federal charges of fraud, money laundering and theft of public funds.
Santos, R-N.Y., had fought to keep their names secret. They were revealed after media organizations, including The Associated Press, petitioned the court for the records to be unsealed, citing the right of public access to court proceedings.
In a court filing earlier this month, his attorney, Joseph Murray, said Santos would rather go to jail than subject his guarantors to the “great harm” that could come from public disclosure. Under the bond agreement, the co-signers did not have to pay any money upfront, but would be held financially liable if Santos did not return to court.
While the identities of signatories are normally made public, Murray pointed to the “media frenzy and hateful attacks” faced by Santos as a reason to make an exception. Santos told reporters after his initial court appearance they would “never get” information about the source of his bail funds, claiming the media would “harass them and make their life miserable.”
But after news organizations pushed for the filings to be made public, a federal judge denied Santos’ request to keep the information secret. Santos appealed the decision, with his lawyer arguing that the co-signers should be given the opportunity to withdraw their support before the names are released. The appeal was denied on Tuesday.
The source of the bail funds has stoked widespread speculation, including allegations by some House Democrats that a financial supporter of the congressman could be seeking to exert political influence.
Earlier this week, Reps. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., and Greg Landsman, D-Ohio, introduced a resolution calling on the House Ethics Committee to disclose the names so they could determine whether Santos was in violation of congressional gifting rules.
Santos pleaded not guilty on May 10 to a 13-count indictment charging that he duped donors, stole from his campaign, lied to Congress about being a millionaire and cheated to collect unemployment benefits he didn’t deserve.
He has defied calls to resign, while refusing to answer questions about the source of his wealth, including a $700,000 payment he made to his campaign. According to federal prosecutors, Santos vastly overstated his income and assets, falsely certifying that he earned a $750,000 salary from a consulting company known as the Devolder Organization LLC.
Santos could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He is due back in court on June 30th.
Jake Offenhartz, The Associated Press