‘The people deserve answers’: Controversy surrounds Queens Congressman-elect George Santos following bombshell investigative report

George Santos at his Election Night party in November. (Photo courtesy of George Santos for New York)

Did Republican Congressman-elect George Santos lie to voters about his background? That’s the question on many voters’ minds after a New York Times investigative article accused the incoming legislator of falsifying parts of his resume.

Santos won the November general election to represent New York’s third Congressional district over Democratic nominee Robert Zimmerman in a tight race, partly thanks to his supposed background at Wall Street firms like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

During his campaign, Santos claimed to have graduated in 2010 from Baruch College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance. However, the New York Times article claims that the university has no record of his graduation at that time. While the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) website claims Santos attended NYU, that university doesn’t have records for him either.

Additionally, both Goldman Sachs and Citigroup claimed they had no record of his employment there.

On Monday, Dec. 19, Santos released a statement from his attorney, Joseph Murray, who smeared the report as “a shotgun blast of attacks” levied by unidentified “enemies at The New York Times.”

“George Santos represents the kind of progress that the Left is so threatened by — a gay, Latino, first-generation American 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,” Murray said. “After four years in the public eye and on the verge of being sworn in as a member of the Republican-led 118th Congress, The New York Times launches this shotgun blast of attacks. It is no surprise that Congressman-elect Santos has enemies at The New York Times who are attempting to smear his good name with these defamatory allegations.”

QNS reached out to the Santos campaign for further comment but have yet to receive a response.

Queens County GOP Chairman Tony Nunziato told QNS he is withholding official comment until he gets both sides of the story. He intends to talk with Santos as soon as possible.

Zimmerman also released a statement Monday saying that he wasn’t shocked to see the Times’ story on Santos.

According to Zimmerman, he had accused Santos of lying about his experience for several months leading up to the election. He cited previous works from Newsday, The Leader and other local news organizations that have documented shady financial dealings from Santos in the past.

“This only underscores the critical work of local and investigative press in holding those seeking power accountable,” Zimmerman said in his statement. “The reality is Santos flat-out lied to the voters of NY3. He’s violated the public trust in order to win office and does not deserve to represent Long Island and Queens. Santos’ failure to answer any of the questions about these allegations demonstrates why he is unfit for public office and should resign. It demonstrates why there must be a House Ethics Committee, Federal Elections Commission and U.S. attorney investigation immediately.”

Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng also spoke out amid the allegations.

“Robert Zimmerman and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) tried to raise these red flags during the campaign, but few, if any, were interested,” Meng said. “The people of NY3 deserve some answers.”

Santos also claimed to have established an animal rescue organization, Friends of Pets United, in 2013. However, the New York Times investigation found no record of it being a tax-exempt organization, despite his claims otherwise.

Their investigation also disputed claims by Santos of having a family fortune of tens of millions of dollars from his family’s real estate company. They were unable to locate any of the properties.

“Councilwoman [Joann Ariola] came to know George Santos in 2019, when he was a failed insurgent candidate running for state committee against the current GOP Chairman, Anthony Nunziato,” a spokesperson for Council Member Ariola said. “The next year she was aware that he enjoyed the support of the Nassau and Suffolk Republican Committees during his failed 2020 candidacy for Congressional District 3 and most recently when he successfully ran for the same seat.  She does not know him well enough to have personally recommended him regarding this or prior candidacies.”

Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan (I-Woodbury), who ran in the Democratic primary for the congressional seat, has called for Santos to resign. On Tuesday, he organized a protest outside Santos’ Whitestone home, calling for the congressman-elect to resign amid the allegations.

“My constituents have been calling my office all morning outraged, whether they voted for him or not,” Lafazan said. “They are outraged and have every right to be. He lied [across] two elections and he should be held accountable. He should do the right thing and resign.”

Santos was also accused in the article of being evicted twice in Queens, first from a Whitestone home, then one in Sunnyside.

According to Maria Tulumba, Santos’ Whitestone landlord, he had been facing financial difficulties in 2015. That November, she filed an eviction suit, accusing him of owing $2,250 in unpaid rent. Tulumba ended up winning the case.

QNS spoke to Tulumba, who confirmed the New York Times report but declined to comment other than saying he was “a nice fellow.”

He ended up having to pay $12,208 in a civil judgment after failing to pay rent for the Sunnyside apartment in 2017 after an eviction case was brought up against him that May. The landlord for that building said in court that Santos owed five months’ worth of rent and that one of his checks bounced.

According to Congressman-elect Dan Goldman, if the allegations printed by the New York Times are accurate Santos should be investigated for at least two potential federal crimes worth investigating. The first would be conspiracy to defraud the United States by knowingly and intentionally interfering with a federal election through dissemination of misinformation. The second would be for filing false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

“The fact that Santos has previously been convicted of fraud in Brazil — from which conviction he remains a fugitive — underscores the urgent need for his conduct surrounding his most recent election to be investigated,” Goldman said. “I therefore urge the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI to initiate an investigation into Santos’ apparent campaign lies. It is also imperative that Republican Party leaders address Santos’ conduct and publicly state whether they believe he is fit to join their caucus. Silence is complicity and would only confirm that Santos represents the core of today’s Republican Party.”

In addition to the New York Times article, Santos has been criticized for attending a New York Young Republican Gala that also featured guests who push far-right-wing conspiracy theories.

“We should all have serious questions about Congressman-elect George Santos’ credibility and fitness to represent New York’s 3rd Congressional District given the recent reporting and revelations that he allegedly falsified his educational background and business dealings while also having an outstanding criminal case abroad,” Congressman Gregory Meeks said in a statement to QNS. “He has apparently gone out of his way to mislead the American people and the voters he would serve as a member of Congress. We need to take these allegations seriously and make sure we hold him accountable if they are true. There is too much at stake in the next Congress to have someone so evidently unfit to serve in office.”

Santos is scheduled to take office in January as congressman of a district that includes parts of Nassau and Queens counties, replacing the outgoing Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who held the seat since 2017 before leaving in an ultimately unsuccessful bid for governor of New York and could not immediately be reached for comment regarding the allegations against Santos.

Santos will be seated in a very slim, four-seat Republican majority in the House of Representatives.