US lawmaker Santos faces court hearing in Brazil

·2-min read
US Congressman George Santos speaks to reproters as he leaves Federal Court on May 10, 2023 in Central Islip, New York
US Congressman George Santos speaks to reproters as he leaves Federal Court on May 10, 2023 in Central Islip, New York

A day after being arrested on 13 charges in the United States, Congressman George Santos faced more legal headaches in Brazil, where a court hearing was scheduled for Thursday in a fraud case against him.

The first-term Republican from New York, who has been embroiled in scandal for lying about much of his biography, has been summoned for a hearing over accusations he used a stolen checkbook to buy some $700 in merchandise from a clothing store outside Rio de Janeiro in 2008.

The closed-door hearing will be held by video conference, but it is not known whether Santos, 34, will participate, a court spokesman told AFP.

The congressman, who has admitted to lying about his name, religion, education and work resume, was arrested and charged Wednesday by US federal prosecutors with wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds and making materially false statements to the House of Representatives.

Santos, who pleaded not guilty, was released on bail of $500,000.

He was ordered to appear in court again on June 30 to face accusations he stole money from donors who contributed to his campaign, lied on his financial disclosure and collected unemployment benefits while earning $120,000 a year at a Florida-based investment firm.

In Brazil, Santos, the son of Brazilian parents who immigrated to the United States, is accused of stealing the checkbook of a deceased elderly man his mother had helped care for and using it to go on a spending spree when he was staying with her as a 19-year-old in the city of Niteroi.

The case had been shelved when investigators were unable to locate Santos.

But prosecutors reinstated the charges after Santos was elected to Congress last year, saying that meant he now had a verified address.

They will offer him a plea bargain at Thursday's hearing, enabling him to avoid criminal prosecution, given that his crime was non-violent and carries a minimum sentence of less than four years, according to court filings.

Convicts are typically given alternative sentences such as community service in such cases.

Santos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.