NEW YORK (WABC) -- In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, Rep. George Santos is accused of embezzling contributions from supporters, fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits and lying in disclosures to Congress.
He is charged by a federal grand jury with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.
Santos, 34, pleaded not guilty to the 13 criminal charges against him and was released on $500,000 bond.
ALSO READ | The saga of Rep. George Santos: Inside his many fabrications, exaggerations, and embellishments
The indictment was returned Tuesday under seal by a federal grand jury sitting in Central Islip, New York. Santos was arrested Wednesday morning.
The indictment alleges Santos, who was elected to Congress last November and sworn in on Jan. 7, 2023, engaged in several fraudulent schemes:
Fraudulent political contribution solicitation scheme
Starting in September 2022, Santos operated a limited liability company through which he is accused of defrauding prospective political supporters. He allegedly enlisted a political consultant to communicate with prospective donors on his behalf and officials say he told that consultant to lie to donors that their money would be used to get him elected.
However, the indictment says that money was transferred to Santos' personal bank accounts and he allegedly used the money for personal expenses such as designer clothing, withdrawing cash, discharging personal debt and transferring money to his associates.
Unemployment insurance fraud scheme
The indictment says Santos was employed as a regional director of a Florida-based investment firm and earned a salary of $120,000 in February 2020. In response to COVID in late March of that year, the U.S. signed a law to allow additional federal funding to assist out-of-work Americans during the pandemic.
In mid-June 2020, although he was employed and not eligible for unemployment benefits, Santos allegedly applied for government assistance through the New York State Department of Labor and claimed to be unemployed since March 2020.
From that point until April 2021, the indictment says Santos lied each week that he was eligible for the unemployment benefits when he was not. He allegedly received more than $24,000 in unemployment insurance benefits.
False statements to the House of Representatives
Santos allegedly misled the House of Representatives about his finances, specifically in to two financial disclosure forms he filed as a candidate.
In May 2020, during his first unsuccessful campaign, Santos overstated one source of income while failing to disclose his investment firm salary, the indictment says.
And in Sept 2022, while running again, he allegedly again included falsehoods in his financial disclosure forms.
Santos is accused of lying about earning a $750,000 salary and between $1 million and $5 million in dividends from his company, the Devolder Organization, falsely claimed to have a checking account that held between $100,000 and $250,000, and a savings account with deposits of between $1 and $5 million.
"These assertions were false. Santos had not received from the Devolder Organization the reported amounts of salary or dividends."
MORE | Read the full indictment:
"This indictment seeks to hold Santos accountable for various alleged fraudulent schemes and brazen misrepresentations," stated United States Attorney Breon Peace. "Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself. He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives. My Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively root out corruption and self-dealing from our community's public institutions and hold public officials accountable to the constituents who elected them."
If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison, though it's not certain he would serve that much time.
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News