Admitted Liar George Santos: I Never Led a Giant Credit Card Skimming Scheme

Why would you think that?

Andrew Harnik/AP

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It’s another week in Washington, which for Rep. George Santos, means another week contending with new claims of wrongdoing and criminal activity.

“I’m innocent,” Santos said, rejecting the latest allegations on Friday. “I never did anything of criminal activity and I’m no mastermind of anything.”

So what is Santos vehemently denying this time? Could it be diverting voter registration money to a GOP-allied gay rights group? Potentially making up top donors? Dressing in drag but never being a “drag queen?”

No, the newest claims of malfeasance come from a former roommate, a Brazilian man named Gustavo Ribeiro Trelha who in 2017 pleaded guilty to a charge of “access device fraud” as a part of a Seattle-based credit card operation that involved skimming devices to steal personal information from people’s credit cards. In a sworn deposition this week, Trelha told federal investigators that Santos was the brains behind the scheme.

“Santos taught me how to skim card information and how to clone cards,” Trelha wrote. “He gave me all the materials and taught me how to put skimming devices and cameras on ATM machines.”

“We used a computer to be able to download the information on the pieces,” he continued, seemingly referring to the parts they’d installed on ATMs. “We also used an external hard drive to save the filming, because the skimmer took the information from the card, and the camera took the password.” According to Trelha, he and Santos split their illicit earnings 50/50. Trelha claims that after his arrest in the operation, Santos visited him in jail and told him not to say anything about him. At a 2017 arraignment, Santos told a judge that he was there to secure accommodations for Trelha, whom he called a “family friend,” in case Trelha was released on bail. 

Now that’s damning stuff, even against the heaping pile of admitted lies, shady campaign reports, and increasingly outrageous remarks that have emerged since Santos was elected in November. Trelha’s claims come amid multiple active investigations into the freshman Republican, as well as bipartisan calls for his resignation.

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