The world knows a lot about Rep. George Santos (R-NY). His backstory is full of lies and his campaign finance reports were studded with extraordinary irregularities. However, amid a cascade of revelations about Santos’ extraordinary deceptions and unusual election operation over the last few months, one mystery remained.
According to his campaign’s filings with the Federal Election Commission, Santos helped power his House bid with personal loans of more than $500,000. Santos’ financial disclosures suggested the sum came as he enjoyed a massive surge in income with a seven-figure salary and more than one million in the bank. It was never quite clear how Santos went from making $55,000 to having a vast personal fortune in the span of a matter of months.
But on Thursday, as Nancy Marks, Santos’ campaign treasurer pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge related to her work on his team, we got an answer. Federal prosecutors said Santos’ fortune never existed at all.
The criminal information filed by prosecutors on Thursday accused Marks of working with Santos on a “scheme” to qualify for “financial and logistical support” from a program run by an unnamed party committee by inflating the amount of money his campaign had taken in. The court filing alleged that Santos’ supposed loans were crucial to furthering the plan. And not only did he not make a $500,000 loan which he claimed to, but he “did not have the funds necessary to make such loans at the time,” the filing said.
Prosecutors did not identify the “National Party Committee” that ran the program, which Santos ultimately qualified for. However, details appear to point to the National Republican Congressional Committee, which leads efforts to elect GOP House candidates. The NRCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to prosecutors, the committee program was based, in part, on a campaign’s fundraising efforts and required candidates to bring in at least $250,000. Prosecutors accused Santos and Marks of falsely filing documents that showed their family members made donations to the campaign that were not actually received.
Santos and Marks allegedly conducted much of the scheme over text and email, messaging each other the names and amounts that relatives would be marked as contributing, with Santos complaining at one point to Marks that he was “lost and desperate.” His anxiety apparently turned to relief once he was accepted for the program.
“I GOT [THE PROGRAM]!” he purportedly texted Marks on Feb. 23, 2022.
The pressure was still on for Santos to continually qualify for support. He purportedly texted an associate in March 2022 that “I have my back against the wall this quarter lol,” according to the filing. That’s where the supposed loan came in.
Santos, prosecutors said, complained in a series of texts the next week to another associate that he needed to show strong numbers to ensure that the committee would “invest in my race.”
So, at a March 21 “Path to Victory” meeting with committee employees, Santos allegedly told staffers that he had made the $500,000 loan to himself.
That only led to more questions. On March 30, a Santos campaign “agent” allegedly texted him asking if a wire transfer for the loan had gone through.
“That’s getting done tomorrow and it’s not a wire, banker check,” Santos allegedly replied.
His campaign later reported that March 31 was the date of the fateful $500,000 loan. Prosecutors said Santos’ team even issued a press release at the time reporting $800,000 raised in the first quarter of 2022 – the majority of which allegedly came from Santos’ fake loan.
Marks pleaded guilty on Thursday in a federal court in Long Island to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Apart from Santos, Marks had a business as a treasurer for GOP campaigns across Long Island, including that of former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY). Both Marks and Zeldin did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Per a copy of the plea agreement, Marks has not agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Santos’ campaign came under intense scrutiny after news broke that he had fabricated his resume, including falsely claiming to have worked at multiple financial firms as he cultivated an air of wealth and success. As reporters and, apparently, investigators dug into Santos’ election operation, they identified a series of stunning irregularities including questionable expenses, donors who did not appear to exist, and donors who claim to have been ripped off.
Santos was indicted in May on fraud and money laundering charges related to his alleged efforts to qualify for unemployment benefits while he was employed and running for office. In that case, prosecutors accused Santos, who has denied any wrongdoing, of having “pocketed campaign contributions and used that money to pay down personal debts and buy designer clothing.”
The congressman and his office did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Marks’ plea. However, a source close to Santos who requested anonymity due to the ongoing investigation, suggested it was Marks, the campaign treasurer who bore responsibility for any impropriety. The comments seem to hint at Santos’ potential defenses as he confronts the mounting legal drama.
“There’s responsibilities to being the official fiduciary of a campaign, one being you make sure your principal isn’t doing shady stuff around money and also yourself are not doing shady stuff around money,” the source close to Santos said. “That’s why it’s her name that goes in the ‘Treasurer’ slot of the FEC filings. Only two names are ever at the top on those. One is the candidate, the other is the treasurer. That puts the onus around her for anything related to finance.”
For her part, Marks seems to be laying the blame squarely on the congressman. In front of the courthouse on Thursday, Ray Perini, Marks’ attorney, said Santos “mentally seduced” her.
“There’s a manipulation involved that had to do with her family and the death of her husband,” Perini said.
Perini did not give further detail to reporters who pressed him at the courthouse. He also did not respond to a request for comment from TPM. However, Perini suggested the alleged “manipulation” of Marks was part of Santos’ string of fabrications.
“There were lies told,” Perini said.
Read the criminal information here: