Ex-Santos fundraiser pleads guilty to fraud, ID theft

Ex-Santos fundraiser pleads guilty to fraud, ID theft

By Jake Offenhartz | Associated Press

NEW YORK — A former fundraiser for U.S. Rep. George Santos was indicted Wednesday on federal charges that he impersonated a high-ranking congressional aide while soliciting contributions for the New York Republican’s campaign.

Sam Miele, 27, was charged with four counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in an alleged scheme to defraud donors and obtain money for Santos under false pretenses. Prosecutors said Miele used a fake name and email address to impersonate a “high-ranking aide to a member of the House with leadership responsibilities.”

The indictment did not name the person who was impersonated, but the details of the charges match with multiple news reports identifying the aide as Dan Meyer, now retired as the longtime chief of staff to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who at the time was minority leader.

Santos was not charged in the indictment. The facts of the case rest on events that overlap with the congressman’s own alleged crimes of wire fraud and money laundering, federal prosecutors said in a filing Wednesday.

Miele pleaded not guilty to the charges in Brooklyn federal court and was released on a $150,000 bond. His attorney, Kevin Marino, did not immediately return a phone message.

Meyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Santos’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors said Miele sent “fraudulent fundraising solicitations” to more than a dozen prospective donors between August and December of 2021, at times signing the emails with the aide’s full name and title.

In a letter sent to Santos last September, Miele admitted to “faking my identity to a big donor,” according to the indictment. He went on to describe himself as “high risk, high reward in everything I do.”

Miele earned a commission of 15% for each contribution he raised, prosecutors said.

A McCarthy spokesman confirmed they were first made aware of the impersonation in August 2021.

The indictment come three months after Santos was arrested on charges of wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making false statements to Congress. He has pleaded not guilty and insisted he has no plans to resign from Congress.

Republican leaders in the House, protecting a narrow majority, have stopped short of calling for Santos to be expelled.

The case against Santos involves separate allegations that he embezzled money from his campaign for personal use, lied to Congress about his finances and cheated his way into undeserved unemployment checks.

During his run for office, Santos fabricated swaths of his life story, falsely portraying himself as a wealthy Wall Street dealmaker when he had actually been struggling to pay his rent and had worked for a company accused of running a Ponzi scheme.

Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.