Wednesday, 24 Apr 2024

George Santos Settles Stolen-Check Case in Brazil

A day after Representative George Santos was charged in a 13-count federal indictment, the embattled first-term congressman of New York appeared in court again on Thursday for a hearing that had a far different outcome.

Mr. Santos and Brazilian prosecutors on Thursday agreed to resolve a criminal charge that involved a pair of shoes and a stolen checkbook. Mr. Santos, who appeared remotely, accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to pay 24,000 Brazilian reais (about $4,850), some of which will go to the victim, and some to charity, according to documents viewed by The New York Times.

In exchange for his confession, prosecutors dropped the case against him, according to his lawyer and another person familiar with the case.

“With today’s decision, he is no longer a defendant in Brazil. A clean record,” said Jonymar Vasconcelos, Mr. Santos’s lawyer in Brazil.

Brazilian prosecutors declined to comment.

The hearing comes less than 24 hours after Mr. Santos was released from federal custody on a $500,000 bond. Prosecutors in New York have charged him with 13 felony counts, including wire fraud, lying and theft of public funds, which could amount to up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted.

The Brazilian case stemmed from an incident in June 2008 where Mr. Santos entered a shop in the city of Niterói, outside of Rio de Janeiro, according to law enforcement authorities. Using a fake name and stolen checkbook he purchased goods, including a pair of tennis shoes, court records show.

Several days later, another man came into the store looking to return the shoes, according to court records. He would later tell police that they had been a gift from his friend Anthony, who “appeared to have a good financial situation, given his designer clothes and the places he went, such as expensive nightclubs and restaurants.”

Mr. Santos would later admit the crime to both the police and the shopkeeper. He was formally charged in September 2011, but the case stalled when prosecutors could not locate him.

The case fell into a type of administrative limbo but was revived in January when news reports revealed that Mr. Santos — who was born in the United States but spent time in Brazil — was living in New York and had been elected to Congress.

The shopkeeper, Carlos Bruno de Castro Simões, was perplexed by Mr. Santos’s trajectory from small-time schemes to Washington, D.C.

“Certainly he has an illness,” Mr. Simões said in the courthouse, adding: “It makes me think of the myth of Icarus, the guy who took a bunch of feathers and flew so close to the sun that the feathers melted and he ended up falling and dying.”

The closure of the Brazilian case will take some pressure off Mr. Santos, a Republican who has promised to continue to serve in Congress and seek re-election in 2024. Under congressional rules, representatives may continue to serve while they are under indictment, and even after being convicted of a crime unless it involves treason.

Reporting contributed by Jack Nicas and Andre Spigariol from Rio de Janeiro.

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