George Santos campaign staffer pleads guilty to wire fraud

A former campaign staffer who helped George Santos get elected last year plead guilty to wire fraud on Tuesday.

Sam Miele, a 27-year-old GOP operative who worked as a fundraiser for Mr Santos in 2022, appeared in court and admitted to impersonating an aide to another member of Congress. News reports have indicated that he pretended to be working for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy when on the phone with potential donors soliciting contributions.

According to The New York Times, Mr Miele’s attorney declined to say on Tuesday whether his client had agreed to testify against his ex-boss for federal prosecutors. Mr Santos, a serial liar who spread falsehoods about massive portions of his background, has been charged separately by the Justice Department with a host of crimes including identity theft, misuse of public funds and money laundering. He has denied all guilt and vowed to fight those charges, while admitting to fabricating most of his resume.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Miele for comment.

The Santos campaign was apparently fraught with wrongdoing; Mr Miele is the second former Santos staffer in as many months to plead guilty to criminal charges related to fraudulent behaviour undertaken in the service of electing the congressman. The congressman’s former campaign treasurer Nancy Marks admitted in October that she had submitted paperwork to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) falsely claiming that Mr Santos had loaned his own campaign $50,000 when in reality no such transaction had occurred and he did not have the funds to do so. She also admitted to fabricating names of campaign donors on FEC filings.

Mr Santos has vehemently denied involvement in any criminal wrongdoing, and claimed to have been ignorant of Ms Marks’s criminal activities when he signed off on the financial filings submitted to the FEC. His former treasurer claimed in court filings that her actions were taken at Mr Santos’s direction.

“I did these things in agreement with co-conspirator #1 for his benefit and to obtain money for his campaign by artificially inflating his funds to meet thresholds set by a national political committee,” Ms Marks said in the filings.

Earlier this month, the congressman did not rule out the possibility of taking a plea arrangement himself when questioned by CNN’s Manu Raju about the ongoing criminal case against him. He recently survived an attempt to oust him in the House as well, with many lawmakers citing a desire to follow precedent and allow an Ethics Committe probe to reach a conclusion.

“I’m not saying I’m not ruling out ... as of right now, it’s not on the table,” said Mr Santos. “I’m not exploring any of that right now. Those conversations are yet to be had … right now I’m pretty focused on my defence.”