Inside The Tangled Web of George Santos

An alleged ponzi scheme, get-rich-quick seminars, AOC's challenger, and a network of mysterious Florida businesses.
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Rep.-elect George Santos’ “family firm” that supposedly managed $80 million in assets was initially registered at a gynecologist’s office in a Florida office park. 

That is one of many curious details about Santos’ business dealings that TPM uncovered during an in-depth analysis this week. Santos, a New York Republican who is set to take office next month, has had aspects of his professional resume and personal biography called into question by a series of reports, including an exposé in the New York Times. Local news outlets have also been all over the sketchiness in Santos’ background for months. 

Santos and several of his colleagues have ties to an alleged multimillion-dollar “ponzi scheme” and a complex network of companies. Among his associates, we found a businessman who claims to have the secrets to earning massive sums with a few keyboard clicks, a shady CEO who allegedly stole money to pay off seven-figure credit card bills, and the body armor wearing, QAnon slogan spouting “Spartan warrior” who ran against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in this year’s election. 

Two of the firms linked to Santos and his associates are supposed strategy firms that have earned money from Republican congressional campaigns. One took in over $110,000 from the unsuccessful challenge to Ocasio-Cortez. The other did work for a candidate who claims to have never heard of the business.

It’s a dizzyingly complex paper trail that reveals a network of companies operated out of a condo and the gynecological practice in Florida. At the center of it all is Santos’ supposed “family” firm, which, he’s suggested in financial disclosures, helped him earn a massive raise in recent years just as he poured money into his own run for Congress.

Some of the prior reporting on Santos by both Mother Jones and The Daily Beast delved into his business ties. However, our research has unearthed a slew of new details. Santos and his attorney did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. 

Santos was elected in November to represent New York’s Third Congressional District, which includes parts of Queens and Long Island. Santos, who also mounted an unsuccessful bid for the seat in 2020, positioned himself as an unapologetic member of the GOP’s MAGA wing. During his first campaign, Santos made a trip to the White House when President Trump was in office. He also visited the former president’s private Florida beach club, Mar-a-Lago. Santos tried to adopt some of Trump’s businessman bravado. He touted himself as “a seasoned Wall Street financier and investor.” That description is based in part on a college degree the school has no record of him receiving and stints at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup that the Times found were not confirmed by the companies in question. Santos’ branding as a “financier and investor” also stems from the “Devolder Organization,” a relatively new firm with a far less illustrious history than the other companies on his resume. 

During his race, Santos’ website described him as a “managing member” at “his family’s firm, Devolder Organizations.” That claim has since been deleted from his online biography. Devolder is Santos’ late mother’s last name and he has, at times, gone by “George Devolder Santos.” His campaign site initially claimed Santos was in charge of the “asset allocations” for $80 million that the company managed. 

The “More and More Network” 

The “Devolder Organization LLC” was formed in Florida in May 2021. Its original articles of organization identified its address as one used by a law firm in an office park in Melbourne, Florida. Public records don’t show other members of Santos’ family officially tied to the firm. Instead, the organization has multiple connections to former colleagues of Santos’ at the controversial investment company where he previously worked including a purported business guru who promotes an array of get-rich schemes online.

At the time of its formation, the registered agent for the Devolder Organization was listed as “D&D International Investment Services Inc.” (D&D), which was based at a different building in that same office park. Records show D&D was first incorporated in 2007 and led by two directors: DeVaughn Dames, a self-described “seasoned executive with two passports,” and Odette Daley, a gynecologist whose practice has earned decidedly mixed reviews. The pair, who are married according to multiple records, initially operated their company out of a residence before moving its “principal place of business” to the office park in 2010. In the park, D&D was headquartered at the same address as Daley’s gynecological practice, which has since closed. 

D&D continued to be based out of Daley’s medical office even after she filed paperwork to resign her position as a director of the company in February 2020. Daley, who continued to be identified as a vice director at the firm in its 2021 and 2022 annual reports, did not respond to a message left at her office. In its 2022 annual report, D&D’s “principal place of business” was identified as the address of a mailbox rental company. 

A slew of other businesses are linked to Dames. In addition to D&D, records show Dames has been listed as an officer or registered agent for 18 different entities in Florida including “BAHAMAS TRADERS CORP.,” “IMPORT EXPORT LOGISTICS GROUP LLC,” and “DEVAUGHN DAMES INTERNATIONAL LLC.” Many of the businesses associated with Dames use the address of Daley’s gynecological practice; however, at times, documents are filed with slight variations of the street address, including the law firm building that once appeared in the paperwork for the Devolder Organization. Dames did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Dames has a prolific presence on social media where he touts his various ventures and discusses strategies for wealth creation. He also offers “coaching programs” for aspiring entrepreneurs through something called the “More and More Network.” Dames starred in a Facebook video associated with that program that had some spelling and grammatical errors in the title: “Buye Business with Other People Money.” In that clip, Dames boasted of his ability to find “lenders” without having capital up front.

“You can buy businesses without money, but when you come to the table you’re going to need somebody with money,” Dames said. 

Dr. DeVaughn Dames hosts a meetup.

Dames also pointed to the “forex space” as “another arena for individuals who would like to get cash on hand” and indicated he offers a “30 day bootcamp” for those who would like to profit on the foreign exchange market. Dames suggested this can be incredibly lucrative with almost no effort.

“You can do side hustles, you can do side gigs, all of that’s good and well,” Dames said. “I prefer to come to the computer, hit a couple of buttons, and make anywhere from 4K to 20K a month in this space.” 

Santos also seems to know a thing or two about wealth creation. In required disclosure documents filed in conjunction with his run for office in 2020, Santos claimed to have made a salary of $55,000 and a bonus of $5,000 that year working for a financial consultant, Linkbridge Investors. Santos did not identify any other assets in that disclosure. By 2022, Santos indicated he earned a $750,000 salary and between $1 million and $5 million in dividends from the “Devolder Organization” in both this year and last. The sudden wealth apparently enabled Santos to loan over half a million dollars to his campaign committee as he ran for Congress.

A ‘Classic Ponzi Scheme’

The “Devolder Organization” is not Santos’ only connection to Dames. Before Devolder was formed, both men worked with a supposed asset management firm that has been embroiled in mounting legal troubles and allegations of misappropriating millions of dollars in investor funds.

In July 2020, Santos was hired as regional director of a Florida-based investment firm called Harbor City. On a Linkedin page, Dames identified himself as the chief financial officer of Harbor City from July 2019 to May 2021.

According to a complaint filed in a Florida court by the Securities and Exchange Commission the month before Dames’ apparent departure, Harbor City was operated in “a classic Ponzi scheme fashion” by its founder and CEO, Jonathan Maroney. In the complaint, the SEC accused Maroney of misappropriating over $6 million in investor funds. No other Harbor City employees were named in the complaint. Maroney, who did not respond to a request for comment, allegedly used some of the more than $17 million raised by the company “to enrich himself and his family” including by buying a “waterfront home,” a Mercedes, and by paying off credit card bills. While that case is ongoing, in court documents highlighted by Mother Jones, Maroney indicated he “is currently the target in a related criminal investigation.” 

Earlier this year, Santos told the Daily Beast he left Harbor City in March 2021, the month before the charges were filed. In his comments to the site, Santos indicated he was unaware of any misconduct at the company and said, “I’m as distraught and disturbed as everyone else is.” 

While he may have left Harbor City behind, Santos still has ties to Dames. On Tuesday, in documents highlighted by TPM’s Josh Marshall, Santos filed a reinstatement for the “Devolder Organization,” which as Mother Jones noted, revived the company after it was dissolved for failing to file an annual report. The document also removed any mention of D&D and the various office park addresses. It identified Santos himself as the company’s registered agent and claimed the Devolder Organization had its “principal place of business” at a three-bedroom condominium on Florida’s Merritt Island. Santos also listed the condo’s address as his own, which Marshall noted creates “some tension” with his representation of a district roughly 1,100 miles away in New York. The condo’s owners couldn’t be reached. A woman who is its current resident based on public records searches did not respond to a request for comment. 

Political Strategy Firms

The reinstatement document seemingly cut Dames out of the Devolder Organization; however, the company actually remains linked to Dames. Devolder’s new address also ties it — and Santos — to multiple Republican campaigns. 

Records show that the Devolder Organization isn’t the only firm headquartered at the Merritt Island condo. There are two other active companies based at the address: “Jayson Benoit & Associates Inc.” and “Redstone Strategies LLC.” Those firms are both linked in ways that go beyond their shared address at the condo. 

U.S. Representative-elect George Santos (R-NY) speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition annual leadership meeting on November 19, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The meeting comes on the heels of former President Donald Trump becoming the first candidate to declare his intention to seek the GOP nomination in the 2024 presidential race. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Jayson Benoit & Associates Inc. is the registered agent for Redstone Strategies and the “Devolder Organization LLC” is an authorized member, though it is identified as having a Queens address in the company’s paperwork. According to Mother Jones, Jayson Benoit was the former chief technology officer of Harbor City. Jayson Benoit & Associates Inc. was first associated with the condo address in the company’s April 2022 annual report. Previously, the company, which was incorporated in 2020, was based in the same office park that was the first home of the Devolder Organization and Dames was its registered agent. 

Two firms associated with Benoit have been paid by Republican congressional campaigns in New York. 

Between June and December 2021, RED STRATEGIES USA, LLC, which was formed in Florida that same year, received 76 payments totalling over $110,000 from the campaign of Tina Forte, a right-wing activist who was badly beaten by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) last month. 

Like Santos, Forte is a proud MAGA Republican. Both Santos and Forte also reportedly attended the protests against former President Trump’s loss that took place in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021. Federal Election Commission records indicate Dames was the treasurer of Forte’s campaign, which was based out of the Florida office park. Forte did not respond to a request for comment on this story. 

Along with Benoit, records show that Dames’ firm, D&D, the Devolder Organization, and another company, “PAUL NICOLINI AND ASSOCIATES INC” were all authorized to manage and control Red Strategies. Paul Nicolini was a regional director at Harbor City. His firm was based at the office park and had D&D as its registered agent. In a phone call on Thursday evening, Nicolini hung up immediately after hearing the call was from a reporter.

“I’m not interested. Thanks,” Nicolini said.

Redstone Strategies LLC, the firm linked to both Benoit and the Devolder Organization, has also been paid by a congressional campaign. On April 30 of this year, Redstone received $1,160 from the campaign of Robert Cornicelli, an “America First” Republican who lost a primary race in the district adjacent to Santos’.

Reached by phone on Thursday, Cornicelli indicated he was completely unaware of Redstone Strategies and Benoit. Cornicelli was apparently dismayed to be associated with Santos. Cornicelli said he would follow up on the matter with his campaign treasurer. 

“I’m just a regular frigging army guy who tried to run,” Cornicelli said. “I don’t know these people.”

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