Investigation into Santos's Involvement in Service Dog Charity Scam

Investigation into Santos's Involvement in Service Dog Charity Scam

Investigation into Santos's Involvement in Service Dog Charity Scam - Rep. George Santos, a freshman Republican from Long Island, is under investigation by the FBI for his alleged involvement in a GoFundMe scheme involving a disabled U.S. Navy veteran’s dying service dog. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York is leading the investigation.

 The veteran, Richard Osthoff, says Santos raised $3,000 for life-saving surgery for his pit bull mix, Sapphire, then vanished with the funds. The alleged fundraising scheme is just one of many controversies surrounding Santos, who has been accused of lying and fraud since December, shortly after winning a swing seat in the elections. 

New York Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman have called for a Federal Election Commission investigation into Santos’ campaign finances and welcomed the news of the Eastern District investigation. Joshua Schiller, a senior trial lawyer who has practiced in the Eastern District, says the veteran’s encounter with Santos could provide prosecutors with an opportunity to hit the Republican congressman with criminal charges even though they are investigating other financial crimes as well.

The GoFundMe account was set up by a man named Anthony Devolder, who ran Friends of Pets United, a pet charity that was not registered. Devolder set up the account and promoted it on social media, promising to help Osthoff get the tumor removed from his dog’s stomach. 

After reaching the goal of $3,000, Devolder gave a series of excuses about why he couldn’t help Sapphire and became difficult to reach, according to text messages between him and Osthoff. Osthoff says Santos deliberately used his story to extract donations, then took off with the funds, leaving him unable to afford Sapphire’s surgery. Sapphire died from the tumor in 2017. 

Schiller says the GoFundMe allegations could result in several charges, including wire and mail fraud, bank fraud, and tax crimes if Santos claimed exemptions for an unregistered charity. The Department of Justice has asked the FEC to pause any enforcement action against Santos as the department works on its own case. 

The New York Attorney General’s office, as well as the Queens District Attorney’s office, have also been investigating Santos.


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