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Gay Republican Rep. George Santos of New York, who faces mounting legal problems over his past lies, accepted a campaign donation from a foreign national who is a confessed human trafficker, according to a new investigation by The Daily Beast.
Rocco Oppedisano, an Italian national, was expelled from the United States in January 2019. He was later found to be smuggling undocumented Chinese and Bahamian migrants as well as $200,000 in cash toward Florida. Oppedisano's family owns a popular restaurant in Queens. His brother, Joseph, and niece, Tina, are the principal owners and friends of Santos, the outlet reports.
Authorities charged Oppedisano not only with smuggling the immigrants but also with trying to re-enter the U.S. illegally. As part of a plea agreement, he only pleaded guilty to the smuggling.
Tina, Joseph, and Tina’s fiancé were appointed to the Small Businesses for Santos Coalition. Oppedisano's niece Tina served as chairwoman.
Oppedisano gave $500 to the Santos campaign on September 22, 2022, despite the U.S. rejecting his permanent residency due to a 2009 criminal complaint involving firearms and drugs at his brother’s homes.
It's illegal for politicians to accept campaign contributions from foreign nationals.
Joseph Oppedisano and his brother Robert donated the same amount shortly after Santos founded his small business coalition, the Beast reports.
The Santos campaign’s expenditures at Oppedisano’s restaurant also raise concerns about impropriety. Santos's campaign owes Il Bacco $18,773.54 for its election night victory party in November. According to records reviewed by the Beast, the GOP lawmaker spent $25,443.64 at Il Bacco during his first run for office in 2020.
The latest development follows revelations that Santos made questionable accounting entries in the campaign’s financial disclosures.
More than half a dozen expenses listed as “Food and Beverage” in the report came to exactly $199.99, just short of the $200 limit, which would have triggered the requirement to retain receipts.
Local, state, and federal authorities are investigating Santos in New York. A government watchdog also asked the FEC to look into his campaign finances earlier this week.
Reps. Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres of New York complained to the House Ethics Committee on Tuesday.
Goldman is a former federal prosecutor in the southern district of New York and served as counsel for the Democrats during the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
According to Goldman and Torres, Santos failed to file the required financial disclosure reports in a timely, accurate, and complete manner in violation of the Ethics in Government Act.
Santos has mostly avoided speaking with reporters and declined to comment on the latest allegations.