Rep. George Santos’s (R-N.Y.) former fundraiser admitted to impersonating a House leadership aide and charging donors’ credit cards without authorization while working for Santos, becoming the indicted congressman’s second ex-aide to plead guilty.
Samuel Miele, 27, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of wire fraud and stipulated to committing access device fraud, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case.
Miele’s guilty plea will likely exacerbate the pressure Santos is facing on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers from both parties have said the embattled freshman lawmaker should be expelled from office.
It could also compound Santos’s legal jeopardy as he defends himself against 23 federal charges and denies any wrongdoing. Miele’s admission of fraudulently charging credit cards seemingly overlaps with Santos’s criminal charges, although it was not immediately clear whether Miele agreed to testify against the congressman.
Miele’s sentencing is set for April 30, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Santos has survived two expulsion votes this Congress, with each falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to oust a sitting lawmaker. Last month, 179 members — hailing from both sides of the aisle — voted to boot Santos from the chamber.
And it comes days before the House Ethics Committee is expected to release its final report in its investigation focused on Santos. The panel announced last month that it would reveal its “next course of action” in the probe on or before Nov. 17. It has been investigating Santos for months, looking into a number of allegations against the congressman.
Lawmakers have said they expect the report to be damning, and at least one New York Republican — Rep. Nick LaLota — is planning to force another vote on expelling Santos once the panel releases its work.
Santos has said that even if he is expelled from Congress, he will still run for his seat in 2024.
The Hill has reached out to Santos and his attorney for comment.
Prosecutors indicted Miele in August on four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft for impersonating a top aide to a member of House leadership while soliciting donations for Santos’s campaign.
Although the aide’s name isn’t mentioned in charging documents, it appears to be the ex-chief of staff to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
Prosecutors said Miele as part of his plea agreed to pay $109,171 in restitution, $69,136 in forfeiture and provide a separate payment of $470,000 to an unnamed contributor.
“The defendant used fraud and deceit to steal more than one hundred thousand dollars from his victims, funneling this money into the campaign committees of candidates for the House, and into his own pockets,” stated U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “Defrauding potential political contributors undermines our democracy, and we will vigorously prosecute such conduct.”
Miele’s charges came roughly three months after Santos himself was indicted on accusations of misleading campaign donors, fraudulently receiving unemployment benefits and lying on financial disclosures.
Since Santos’s indictment, his former campaign treasurer, Nancy Marks, took a plea deal, and prosecutors also unveiled a second set of charges against Santos, newly accusing him of inflating his campaign finance reports and charging donors’ credit cards without authorization.
The New York Republicans who forced a vote on Santos’s expulsion last month cited Marks’s plea deal as the catalyst for their decision to move forward with trying to oust the lawmaker.
This story was updated at 3:12 p.m.
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