Sam Miele, a fundraiser for Rep. George Santos’ (R-N.Y.) 2020 and 2022 campaigns, has been indicted in federal court for impersonating then–Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s former chief of staff while soliciting donations for Santos.
The indictment, which was unsealed Wednesday, charges Miele with four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. It states that in 2021 Miele falsely impersonated a high-ranking aide to a member of Congress as part of a scheme to raise money for Santos, who is referred to as “Candidate #1.” As CNBC reported earlier this year, that person was Dan Meyer, who worked at the time as chief of staff for the current House Speaker.
Miele pleaded not guilty Wednesday and was released on $150,000 bond. Miele’s attorney, Kevin Marino, said in a statement that his client “looks forward to complete vindication at trial as soon as possible.”
Miele, who is 27, was a novice in the world of political fundraising. He is a relatively insignificant target on his own, but the indictment signals that the investigation into Santos, who was indicted in May for other alleged schemes, is likely not over.
The May indictment largely sidestepped Santos’ campaign finance practices. As Mother Jones has reported, many of the top donors to Santos’ 2020 campaign do not appear to exist. A relative told me they did not make the contribution attributed to them during the most recent campaign. Both are potential violations of federal campaign finance law.
As part of the identity theft scheme, Miele allegedly created a fake email address that included Meyer’s first initial and last name and signed emails with Meyer’s full name and title. Miele also impersonated Meyer during phone calls. He is accused of soliciting money from more than a dozen people while pretending to be McCarthy’s chief of staff. The donors he tried to con are not named in the indictment.
Miele received a 15 percent commission on donations he brought in. The Santos campaign paid him or his LLC, the One57 Group, more than $90,000 over the course of the two campaigns, according to federal records.
McCarthy’s staff reportedly learned Miele was impersonating their boss in August 2021. Miele wound up getting fired by the Santos campaign and received his last payment in January 2022.
In September 2022, Miele wrote a letter to Santos in which he admitted to what he’d done. By way of an explanation, he wrote that he was, “high risk, high reward in everything I do.”