Incoming Rep. George Santos, Who Flipped a House Seat Red, Made Unsubstantiated Claims About His Past: Report
The education, financial history and backstory of incoming Republican Rep. George Santos is being called into question after The New York Times published a story Monday revealing that much of the soon-to-be-lawmaker's background is mired in mystery.
The Times reports that the New York representative-elect, who flipped a Long Island seat red after winning his congressional race in November, built his campaign on being the "embodiment of the American dream." But much of his campaign biography — including alleged stints at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and an animal rescue charity he says he founded — has now been put under a microscope by the explosive report.
While Santos himself has not yet commented on the allegations, his attorney said in a statement to various outlets including CNN that the allegations were "defamatory" and that the newly elected representative "represents the kind of progress that the Left is so threatened by — a gay, Latino, immigrant and Republican who won a Biden district in overwhelming fashion by showing everyday voters that there is a better option than the broken promises and failed policies of the Democratic Party."
Ronda Churchill/Bloomberg via Getty
Santos, who is 34 years old and the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent, has previously made a number of claims that the Times was unable to verify.
Santos has said he graduated from Baruch College in 2010 and, on a biography on the National Republican Congressional Committee's website, cites a stint at New York University. According to the Times, neither school could find a record of anyone matching his name or date of birth who had attended.
Santos has also claimed he worked at Citigroup and at Goldman Sachs, though neither company could verify his employment (an employee at Citigroup told the Times they were unfamiliar with his alleged role at the company, and had previously sold off the division which he claimed to be a part of).
Claims about his animal rescue group, an allegedly tax-exempt organization called Friends of Pets United, are also murky. The Times notes that the organization at one point had a Facebook page but that the Internal Revenue Service had no record of a registered charity going by that name.
Another company Santos worked for, Harbor City Capital, was declared a Ponzi scheme by the S.E.C., though Santos had denied knowledge of such a scheme.
RELATED: Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Resigning After Being Found Guilty of Lying to Investigators in Campaign Probe
His financial situation, too, is something of a mystery.
Financial disclosure reports for his campaign paint a picture of success, showing that Santos reported a $750,000 salary and over $1 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization. But the Times reports that it could not locate any public-facing assets or other property owned by The Devolder Organization.
As Kedric Payne, the vice president of a campaign watchdog group and a former deputy chief counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics, told the outlet: "This report raises red flags because no clients are reported for a multimillion-dollar client services company."
Santos' financial situation is particularly strange given that, in years prior to his campaign launch, he appears to have struggled, with the Times reporting that he was evicted from a Queens apartment in 2015 due to $2,250 in unpaid rent.
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer.
During its investigation, the Times discovered that Santos' past is littered with legal troubles; he was previously charged after confessing to stealing the checkbook of a man who was in his mother's care in Brazil.
His current address is also in question, with the Times reporting that a journalist went to the address where the New York Republican is registered to vote, only to find that the person who answered the door said "she was not familiar with him."
As outlets including Axios report, Santos' campaign seems to have scrubbed its website of some portions of his backstory, with references to Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and his animal rescue nonprofit all being removed in recent months, according to archives versions of the website.
Santos is set to begin his term in January.