Queens leaders, political opponents react to George Santos indictment

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves a House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Following the news that Queens/Long Island Congressman George Santos had been indicted on charges of fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and lying to the House of Representatives, many members of his district, as well as community leaders, were quick to react.

According to the United States Department of Justice, Santos has been charged 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.

Among the first to react to Santos’ indictment was Kellen Curry, who will be running for Santos’ congressional seat in the 2024 Republican primaries. Curry, in a statement, expressed concern over just how severe the charges are for Santos. While he was critical of Santos, he also made it a point to not berate him during such a difficult time.

“I did not join this race to throw punches while my opponent is down,” Curry said. “The people of NY-3 do not want to see leaders insulting each other. They deserve better than these kinds of distractions and we must look forward to delivering real results for our communities, youth and nation. I urge Mr. Santos to fully cooperate with federal authorities and take responsibility for his actions. I believe honesty and integrity are critical values for anyone seeking to represent the people of this great country. As we champion forward, I will continue to fight for transparency and accountability in government.”

Shortly after the news first broke of Santos being indicted, but before the charges were announced, Robert Zimmerman, who ran against Santos as the Democratic nominee in the 2022 election, released a statement condemning the congressman and calling for his resignation or expulsion from Congress.

“George Santos betrayed voters, broke the law and should resign from Congress,” Zimmerman said. “Long Island and Queens deserve a representative who will tell the truth, focus entirely on lowering costs for families, make our communities safer and upgrade our infrastructure. If House Republicans fail to move for his immediate expulsion, they will be accomplices to his crimes.”

Concerned Citizens of NY-03, a group that has regularly protested against Santos outside of his district office in Douglaston, also released a statement following Santos’ indictment.

“The world has known for months that Santos is a liar, an imposter and a criminal,” the group said in a statement. “The only thing we didn’t know was which of his many crimes would be prosecuted first. It’s beyond time for Speaker Kevin McCarthy to withdraw his support for Santos and show him the door. Even in Congress, where truth-stretching is almost a norm, Santos is an outlier. He is an imposter. The Jewish, well-educated, half-Black real estate tycoon that George Santos sold to NY-03 voters, was a mirage. Unlike other legitimately elected members of Congress who have found themselves in hot water for misdeeds, George Santos has never represented the will of the people of New York’s Third Congressional District.”

Not everyone has been quick to criticize Santos for being charged.

Queens County GOP Chairman Tony Nunziato is still reluctant to withdraw his support for Santos. While he admitted the charges were concerning, he also told QNS that he wants to first see how the indictment plays out before deciding upon whether or not to continue voicing his support for the embattled congressman.

“I believe in the [court] system,” Nunziato said. “If [the charges] are proven, then he should definitely step down. How can we say he should step down unless there is a conviction? It’s horrendous what I’m seeing and if it’s true, then definitely he should step down. But let’s see what the court says.”

Republican Council member Vickie Paladino, who represents some of the same northeast Queens neighborhoods as Santos in the City Council, said she wasn’t surprised at the indictment due to the large amount of accusations and the media attention it received. Paladino had previously expressed her disappointment in Santos for his alleged lies, but had not gone on record about whether or not she felt he should resign.

“If evidence of criminal wrongdoing is demonstrated, it will be incumbent upon Congressman Santos to resign,” Paladino said. “There are now several names being mentioned on both sides for a challenge to Congressman Santos, and I believe our district deserves a fair and transparent primary and general election—this time with the benefit of all the facts about each candidate. More information is sure to be made public in the coming weeks, and the congressman now has several tough decisions to make. I hope the legal process moves swiftly and delivers a just result in this case and serves as an example for the myriad other public officials accused of wrongdoing.”

After surrendering himself to authorities Wednesday morning, Santos appeared before a judge at the courthouse in Central Islip, Suffolk County at around 1 p.m. He entered a Not Guilty plea before being released on a $500,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for June 30 before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert. Santos could face up to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted on all counts.